South Africa’s Transport Boom: More Goods, More Journeys in Q1 2023

  • Freight Transportation Surge: South Africa saw a significant rise in freight transportation in Q1 2023, with a 4.9% increase in the volume of goods transported and a corresponding 8.5% increase in income compared to the same period in 2022. Key contributors were primary mining and quarrying products, ‘other’ freight, and manufactured food, beverages, and tobacco products.
  • Passenger Transportation Growth: The number of passenger journeys also increased by 14.1% in March 2023, compared to March 2022. The income from passenger transportation followed suit, increasing by 16.6%.
  • Shift from Road to Rail: Both freight and passenger transport showed a shift from road to rail. Rail freight increased by 18.0%, while road freight decreased by 2.4%. Similarly, rail passenger journeys surged by 40.5%, while road journeys fell by 3.4%.

The South African land transport sector experienced a significant increase in both freight and passenger traffic in March 2023, as revealed in the P7162 – Land Transport Survey released by Statistics South Africa (STATSSA).

The report indicated a substantial 4.9% surge in the volume of goods transported (payload) in March 2023, compared to the same period in the previous year. Correspondingly, income from this sector rose by 8.5% over the same period, indicating a robust trend in South Africa’s freight transport industry.

First quarter performance: Income from freight transportation escalates

Income from freight transportation demonstrated a remarkable rise of 13.1% in the first quarter of 2023, compared to Q1 2022. The report attributed this surge to three key contributors:

  1. Primary mining and quarrying products exhibited a 13.0% increase, contributing 4.2 percentage points to the overall rise.
  2. The ‘other’ freight category, which includes diverse types of goods not classified under specific categories, soared by 19.3%, contributing 3.8 percentage points.
  3. Manufactured food, beverages, and tobacco products saw a significant upswing of 16.0%, contributing 2.0 percentage points.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, the payload increased by a slight 0.2% in Q1 2023 compared to Q4 2022.

Rail vs Road Freight: Rail freight shows promising growth

When compared to the previous quarter, rail freight demonstrated a notable increase of 18.0% in Q1 2023, contributing 2.3 percentage points to the overall payload increase. However, road freight recorded a decrease of 2.4%, contributing -2.1 percentage points, suggesting a shift in freight transportation methods during this period.

A leap in passenger transportation

Turning to passenger transportation, the number of passenger journeys increased significantly by 14.1% in March 2023 compared to the same period in 2022. The corresponding income from passenger transportation also showed a promising growth of 16.6% over the same period, underscoring the recovery of the passenger transport sector amid the global economic resurgence.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, passenger journeys in Q1 2023 increased marginally by 0.5% compared to the previous quarter.

Rail vs Road Passenger Journeys: Rail journeys make a comeback

In what could be seen as a comeback for the rail passenger sector, rail passenger journeys increased dramatically by 40.5% in Q1 2023 compared to Q4 2022, contributing 3.6 percentage points to the overall increase. On the other hand, road passenger journeys showed a slight decline of 3.4%, contributing -3.1 percentage points.

In conclusion

The P7162 – Land Transport Survey from STATSSA paints an optimistic picture of the land transport sector’s performance in Q1 2023. This upward trend can be seen as a positive sign for the South African economy’s resilience and adaptive capability amid global economic volatility. However, the shift from road to rail for both freight and passenger transportation indicates changing dynamics in the industry that stakeholders must consider for future strategies and policy decisions.



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