(Bloomberg) -- Transnet SOC Ltd. said it’s in talks to run additional trains between a port in Gqeberha in the Eastern Cape province and the country’s commercial hub of Gauteng to better link the two automotive manufacturing hubs. 

The state freight rail and ports company has faced withering criticism from carmakers to coal and iron ore miners as its deteriorating rail service has forced an increasing amount of commodities and cars to be transported by trucks. The head of Volkswagen AG’s South African unit has said car companies are in talks with Transnet to improve the line and run privately-operated trains on it. 

Transnet in response to queries said it’s in talks with the government and funders “to expand the Southern Corridor rail network” to add three 50-wagon trains for use by automotive companies daily between Port Elizabeth in Gqeberha and Gauteng. Later, the state-owned company said, it would expect private companies to invest in rail infrastructure and trains to boost the service.

Companies such as VW and Isuzu Motors Ltd. currently rely almost entirely on trucks to get their vehicles from their plants near Gqeberha to Gauteng, South Africa’s biggest car market. Companies with plants in Gauteng, such as Ford Motor Co. and BMW AG, could use the line to move cars to the port in the coastal city as an alternative to the congested terminal in the city of Durban.

Transnet said it’s also in talks with VW “to resurrect the existing rail haulage service” between the carmaker’s plant in Kariega, near Gqeberha, and Gauteng. A test train run was delayed by floods in the Eastern Cape, it said.

The state company said it also wants private train operators and investors to help expand shipments of manganese to Port Elizabeth and the nearby port of Ngqura.

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