STATE-owned freight and logistics company Transnet has reported record rail volumes in the financial year to the end of March, as well as an increase of about 21% in revenue to R45,9bn.

"For the first time we have broken the 200-million ton volume ceiling, which has eluded us for years," CEO Brian Molefe said at a presentation on Tuesday.

"This is the biggest jump in volumes in the past five years," he said.

General freight volumes rose to 81m tons from 73,7m tons last year, the company said. Containers on rail increased 21,5% to 762760 20-foot-equivalent units (TEUs) from 627825 TEUs, which Mr Molefe said showed Transnet was regaining market share for rail-friendly freight and removing these volumes from the roads.

Export coal volumes increased 8,8% to 67,7-million tons from 62,2-million tons, while iron-ore volumes jumped an impressive 13,2% to 52,3-million tons from the previous year's 46,2-million tons.

"Both heavy haul lines achieved record weekly throughput (productivity) levels of 1,7-million tons and 1,2-million tons, respectively," Transnet said.

Siyabonga Gama, CEO of Transnet Freight Rail, said the rail unit planned to move between 73-million and 75-million tons of coal on the coal export line in the coming year.

He added that Transnet had not felt the effects of the softening in the demand for export coal.

Transnet's overall net income fell 1,5% to R4,1bn in the year as a result of higher operating, material and energy costs, along with an increase in staff numbers.

The company spent R22,3bn under its capital expenditure programmes, which was the most the logistics monopoly had invested in a single year, Mr Molefe said.

Cash generated from operations rose 24,3% to R22,7bn.

Transnet is investing R300bn over the next seven years to allow it to leapfrog its infrastructure investment backlogs and expand its capacity.

Last month it said it had "stress-tested" the investment strategy in view of a possible prolonged economic downturn and concluded that it could maintain infrastructure investment even if the economy slowed.

The stress tests were modelled using 2008 volumes, when South Africa last went into recession, Mr Molefe said at the time.

The tests showed Transnet would be able to continue investing even if the economy performed poorly, though it would mean it would spend closer to R250bn and not the envisaged R300bn.

smithn@bdfm.co.za