Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) has suggested meeting with nature conservationists to formally discuss coal trains driving through the Pongola Game Reserve and reserves in KwaZulu Natal.
This follows news that speeding coal trains operated by TFR killed two White rhinos, eight buffalos, six impalas and a wildebeest on Friday, August 18.
Tourism Update understands that TFR has an agreement with nature conservation authorities to limit trains driving through the parks to 40kph. However, according to a spokesperson from TFR, no proof of such an arrangement has been found.
According to Kemp Landman, spokesperson for Pongola Game Reserve, the animals were struck by one or more trains on the rail line that runs from Mpumalanga, through Eswatini before re-entering South Africa in northern KwaZulu Natal.
Although coal loads by rail have been freighted on the line to Richards Bay for a long time, the pace and frequency of trains have increased, mainly to meet fossil fuel demand in Asia and Europe.
Landman told Netwerk24 that, although it understood the reasons freight must move through the game reserve, trains have almost doubled their speed when driving through the area.
Freight and logistics publication, Freight News highlighted that, at about 70kph, it is much harder for locomotives to bring a line of heavily loaded wagons to a standstill and avoid a collision without potentially causing a derailment.
Video footage of a train travelling through one of the parks shows four locomotives towing more than 70 wagons, all loaded with coal.
Endangered species killed
A giraffe that collided with a locomotive lost a leg in the incident and had to be euthanised and in one incident, a train travelling through Phongolo Nature Reserve to the Port of Richards Bay, struck four White rhinos, instantly killing two of the endangered species.
One of the rhinos from the Ezemvelo KZN-run nature reserve is in a critical condition. Another ran away injured and is still being tracked by game rangers.
The impala, wildebeest, buffalo, and giraffe were all struck in the privately run Pongola Game Reserve next to Phongolo Nature Reserve.
PICTURES: The following images clearly show the trail of death left by speeding trains. (Caution - upsetting content).