There was a railway siding where the branch line ended at the cement factory, a street away from where I grew up. I remember the recurring clatter of the “goods trains” that off-ramped from the Queenstown-East London line in the mid-’90s to take the short detour to the cement and later board factory before they reconnected again to the main line. Old, fraying signboards are all that remain to remind one that such a factory existed here. Grass and reeds have grown, as if intentionally watered, over the old Spoornet tracks.

I was reminded of this as I heard the frank remarks before legislators last week by Transnet chair Andile Sangqu. The recovery plan he spoke to would have to contend with whether the branch lines to the old Alpha cement factory would be part of a future Transnet, as much as about the immediate prospects of a default...

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