By Larry Claasen
The Atlantis Special Economic Zone (SEZ) is still keen on restarting its rail service.
This follows the SEZ’s rail link with the Port of Cape Town being severed in 2018 when its rail reserve through the DuNoon informal settlement, near Montague Gardens was invaded, forcing rail operations to stop.
The Atlanta SEZ, which has a 43km long rail link to the Port of Cape Town, is setting itself up as a green energy hub and sees the restarting of the rail service as a development that could boost this industry.
“The present work done by the Atlanta SEZ to open the freight railway line between Atlantis, an already successful industrial node, and the Port of Cape Town will be a further boost in the quest of the Atlantis SEZ to become an export-based Greentech manufacturing hub,” the group said in its 2022 annual report.
The idea is to set the zone up as a manufacturing base for wind turbines, solar panels, insulation, biofuels, electric vehicles, energy storage, materials recovery, and green building materials.
Aside from developing the greentech sector, the rail service could also see the Atlanta SEZ become a transport hub.
“Getting it operational would also create a huge opportunity for Atlantis to become an inland port/freight village of sorts,” says Atlantis SEZ CEO Matthew Cullinan.
Restarting the rail service, however, will not be a cheap process.
Cullinan says a study commissioned by the group found it would cost about R40-million to get the line operational again. This figure excludes the cost of relocation and re-housing of occupiers.
Though getting the line operational would be a value-added service for Atlanta SEZ, Cullinan notes that the survey found that the general sentiment towards freight rail from industrialists in Atlantis was poor and that it would take a lot of work to get traffic back onto the line.
Getting the rail service operational, however, will not be a quick process as it requires complex negotiation between Transnet, the Western Cape Provincial Government, and the City of Cape Town on finding new accommodation for the occupants.
Cullinan says the issue is sensitive, and the parties involved in the negotiation are not speaking publicly on it.
“I am led to believe that there are moves to resolve this, but everyone involved is tight-lipped.”
He says that this is in part because of sensitivities with negotiations with the community leaders when it comes to relocating people. Aside from coming up with alternative accommodation, systems also have to be put in place to prevent re-invasion of the land.