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You are here: Lesson 16: Handling the export logistics > Rail freight  
Rail freight


Since South Africa's independence in 1994, rail is proving to be a reliable alternative to road transportation, as Spoornet moves further and further into Africa. Spoornet plan to have regular rail movements to the Democratic Republic of Congo, giving South African exporters increased rail options to more African destinations. Not only is rail freight an alternative solution for trade into Africa, but it is also an alternative for moving freight from inland cities (such as Pretoria, Johannesburg, Bloemfontein, Kimberly, etc.) to the ports. Rail freight does not have quite the reach that road freight does, as not every town is reliably served by rail transportation. What is more, road freight can provide a 'last mile' solution that rail freight cannot (i.e. a truck will probably still be used to get the cargo from the railway station to and from the factory or customer's premises.

Cargo dispatched by rail can be consolidated into a rail wagon or packed into individual containers. Transnet offer 3 and 9 metre containers. These containers are unique to rail and road transportation and are not offered for sea freight.Nevertheless, standard sea freight containers can also be moved by rail. Transnet divides the container freight market into three categories, namely:

  • Import traffic: the management of containers that enter through a South African port with a domestic or over border destination.
  • Export traffic: the management of containers leaving South Africa through our ports and
  • Domestic traffic: the management of containers transported within and over South Africa's borders.

Transnet services

Transnet offers terminal services in addition to rail services. The following terminal services are offered:

  • Physical and administrative checks.
  • Acceptance/delivery of the container in the interchange zone at the terminal.
  • Loading/unloading of the container at the terminal interchange zone from/to a hauler or when lifted from/placed on a rail wagon at the railhead.
  • Conveyance between the interchange zone or railhead and the stack.
  • Stacking/de-stacking.
  • Handling by means of container crane and/or gantry crane as the case may be.
  • Transhipment of containers emanating from and destined for foreign countries.
  • Storage.

Transnet also has six major inland terminals and nineteen satellite depots that are strategically located to link with the ports in South Africa. Each terminal, with its satellites depots handle containers, cars and bulk traffic and are located as follows:

  • City Deep (Eastcon, Kazcon),
  • Belcon (Saldanha, Ashton, Dalcon),
  • Deal Party (East London, George),
  • Pretcon (Phalaborwa, Witbank, Pietersburg, Nelspruit, Piet Retief),
  • Bayhead (Newcastle) and
  • Bloemfontein (Kimberly, Maseru, De Aar, Kroonstad, Kakamas, Bethlehem).
  • Click here to read up more about Transnet's 'Conditions of Service".

    Rail freight rates

    Spoornet operates commodity-based freight rates, which identifies goods into different categories. Manufactured or semi-manufactured goods, such as motor vehicles, these are classified according to a higher tariff, while minerals and agricultural products such as maize are classified according to a lower tariff grouping.

    poornet also offers, contract rates, based on truckloads, or trainload rates, these rates are extremely negotiable. Goods delivered by rail move from one station to another on the presentation of a FTO - Freight Transit Order.

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    Step 16: more information

    Step 16: Handling the export logistics
          .Sea Freight
          .Air Freight
          .Road Freight
          .River Freight

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    More information on Lesson 16
    Learning to export... The export process in 21 easy steps
    Step 1: Considering exporting
    Step 2:Current business viability
    Step 3:Export readiness
    Step 4:Broad mission statement and initial budget
    Step 5:Confirming management's commitment to exports
    Step 6: Undertaking an initial SWOT analysis of the firm
    Step 7:Selecting and researching potential countries abroad
    Step 8: Preparing and implementing your export plan
    Step 9: Obtaining financing for your exports
    Step 10: Managing your export risk
    Step 11: Promoting the firm and its products abroad
    Step 12: Negotiating and quoting in exports
    Step 13: Revising your export costings and price
    Step 14: Obtaining the export order
    Step 15: Producing the goods
    Step 16: Handling the export logistics
    Step 17: Export documentation
    Step 18: Providing follow-up support
    Step 19: Getting paid
    Step 20: Reviewing and improving the export process
    Step 21: Export Management
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