Paper presented at the 22nd Annual Southern African Transport Conference 14 - 16 July 2003 "National issues affecting the movement of people and goods - strategic approaches", CSIR International Convention Centre, Pretoria, South Africa. ABSTRACT: Primary transportation infrastructure in the Gamtoos Valley, a fertile agricultural district located to the west of Port Elizabeth, consists of a single-lane surfaced road namely Route 331, as well as a narrow gauge railway line. While the road pavement is in a poor condition due to lack of maintenance and extensive damage caused by an increasing number of heavy vehicles, the rail service is under-utilised and its future uncertain. The railway is used exclusively for the conveyance of export fruit via the Port Elizabeth harbour and is only operational for the duration of the citrus season that lasts from the beginning of April till the end of October. This paper reports on a preliminary investigation into the possibility of shifting passengers and freight from road to rail in order to relieve the pressure on the road system, to optimise the use of
existing transportation facilities and to preserve and extend the working life of valuable road and rail assets. The logistics of hauling both imported and exported goods were analysed to establish what portion thereof could probably be moved by rail instead of by road. Other issues that were looked at included the offering of rail concessions to private companies, the introduction of a passenger service between Loerie and Patensie and the impact that current policies of the national rail operator, Spoornet, have on the provision of a satisfactory service to existing and potential rail clients. The Gamtoos Valley is typical of many agricultural regions in South Africa and it is envisaged that the results of this study will also apply to other farming areas that are served by both road and rail links. The value to the agricultural sector and its related industries of maintaining two transportation modes in competition with each other, and simultaneously utilising both to their full potential should not be underestimated.
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