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2012 Road and Rail: A review of South Africa's road and rail infrastructure (PDF Report)


For the much of the six-and-a-half decades from 1910, South Africa’s rail sector was carefully nurtured and handsomely resourced by successive administrations. Growing competition from road was kept at bay by tough regulatory practices that ensured rail freight of a virtual monopoly.


From the mid-1970s, however, rail’s pre-eminent position in South Africa began to come under scrutiny. A series of National Transport Policy Studies reviewed worldwide trends in transport deregulation. The findings reinforced a growing belief that an overprotected rail industry and an over-regulated road-freight sector were detrimental to the overall South African economy. This was undoubtedly true – but as often happens in these matters, in the following decades, and indeed, right up to the recent present, the stick was then bent excessively in the opposite direction.


The net result is that, on the freight side, rail has massively lost market share to road over the past 20 to 25 years. Road transport has been allowed to grow, but without the implementation of an effective road transport quality system. This imbalance in the modal split has been a key contributing factor to high direct logistics costs in the economy. The disproportionate shift of freight to road has had many other perverse and costly impacts – the road freight industry (unlike Transnet Freight Rail) does not directly carry the cost of building and maintaining the public infrastructure it uses and this has resulted in an increase in road construction and maintenance costs, deteriorating road conditions, congestion problems and road collisions.


This report investigates South Africa’s road and rail infrastructure, including the country’s road and rail networks, maintenance and the challenges facing the sector, among others.


The report draws on information available in the public domain. The report does not purport to provide analysis of market trends.


Publication: 19 October 2012.


Table of contents

List of abbreviations 1

Key developments 2

Introduction 3

Road infrastructure in South Africa 4–15

  • South Africa’s road network 4
    • Size of the network 4
    • State of the network 4
  • Funding South Africa’s roads 5
    • Provincial and municipal roads 6
    • National roads 6
  • The Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project 7
  • Road maintenance 10
    • Road construction challenges 11
  • Passenger transport by road 12
    • The minibus taxi industry 12
    • The commuter bus industry 12
  • Freight transport by road 14

Rail infrastructure in South Africa 16–25

  • Freight transport by rail 16
    • The coal export line 17
    • The iron-ore export line 18
    • General freight business 18
    • Rolling stock for freight transport 20
  • Passenger transport by rail 20
    • Rolling stock for passenger transport 21
    • Passenger rail infrastructure 22
    • The Gautrain 23

Main sources 26–27

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