South Africa - Country Commercial Guide
Rail Infrastructure
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Table: Total Market Size for Rail Infrastructure: 2020-2023






Total Market Size  700,000 700,000 700,000 700.000 
Total Local Production  140,000 150,000 150,000 160,000 
Total Exports  55,000 58,000 60,000 65,000 
Total Imports  800.000 750,000 770,000 750,000 
Imports from the U.S.  280,000 230,000 240,000 220,000 
Exchange Rate: 1 $ 
15.9 16.00   

Unit: $thousand 

Total Market Size = (Total Local Production + Total Imports) – (Total Exports) 

Note: Above figures exclude the value of the independent Richards Bay coal terminal consortium upgrades and multi-year diesel and electric locomotives roll-out confirmed in 2010 and 2014.  Figures also exclude related road, highway, and port/maritime investments.  Figures are unofficial estimates obtained from press and industry sources. 

South Africa has the most extensive rail infrastructure in Africa. However, rail (freight and passenger) and port capacity declines remain a severe constraint in domestic and regional trade, even in the currently constrained business environment. The South African Government’s plans to spend R900 billion by 2027 on rail infrastructure, have been beset by regulatory and organizational challenges, as well as theft of cabling, rail, and station infrastructure. Since 2017, commodity exports have consistently dropped due to rail inefficiencies. The authorities’ intentions of addressing failings in the rail environment have made little progress in streamlining the freight and passenger network on the 3’6” Cape gauge with new tractive systems, carriages, hoppers, signaling and fare collection systems. Internal inefficiencies and administered rail tariffs have made competing against road freight almost impossible. Feasibility studies to expand the 4’8” gauge Gautrain high-speed passenger rail project in Pretoria and Johannesburg across Gauteng Province have been completed; implementation of work for the western route expansion is planned for 2025. 


State-owned Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) and others are reviewing logistics (mostly rail, but also ports) projects such as upgrading the Sishen-Saldanha Bay ore line, the Richard Bay coal line, and other new coal line networks in North West Province. Transnet’s rail and port projects were set to cost around R300 billion over seven years and include augmenting the tractive and bulk car fleet, signaling, maintenance, advanced train management systems, increased line security, and network expansion/concession models. 

In 2021, TFR announced plans to introduce concessionary / third-party operators into its branch lines- and later, the main lines network. To achieve this goal, TFR is commercially separating rail infrastructure from operations, but as of 2023 the interest by the private sector has been very limited to 12 line operating concession offers; TFR announced in 2022 it had conditionally awarded Traxtion Sheltam to operate lines on the Cape Corridor, TFR is also developing a hook-and-haul service to increase private freight rolling stock. 

The first phase of the extension of the north, south, west and east high-speed passenger public private partnership Gautrain line is undergoing the necessary approvals by National Treasury to enable commencement of the procurement cycle, this follows the conclusion of the feasibility study. Once funding is secured, groundwork is expected to start by 2026.

Sub-Sector Best Prospects

Transportation equipment and infrastructure:

  • Strategic Route Design and Network Planning
  • Business Model Analysis and Concession Project Management
  • New and Refurbished Locomotives
  • New Bulk Car and Other Dedicated Rolling Fleets
  • Smart Signaling and Operations Automation
  • Security and Surveillance Systems
  • Automatic Fare Collection Systems
  • Rolling Stock Depot Design

Web Resources:

Tambo-Springs Multi-Modal Logistics Hub


Africa Rail 2024 Conference and Exhibition 

25-26 -22 June 2024 | 

Sandton Convention Center, Johannesburg 


For More Information, the U.S. Commercial Service in Johannesburg, South Africa can be contacted via e-mail at: 

Phone: +27 11 290 3208; Fax: +27 11 884 0253, or visit our website: