Government has reiterated its commitment in pursuing and implementing strategies aimed at developing the railway transport in Zambia.
Speaking at the North- South Corridor Pre-feasibility study, Acting Minister of Transport and Communications Emerine Kabanshi said in order to transform the two railway systems in Zambia into a reliable, efficient, secure and cost effective transportation networks for bulk in the North to South Transport Corridor, the government has embarked on a radical program aimed at modernizing the railway infrastructure and rolling stock.
Ms Kabanshi said the North-South Corridor Study will therefore contribute to the modernisation of the railway system in the region as it will provide cardinal information required to understand fully the market trends, rolling stock and railway infrastructure required to meet the demands of customers in our ever-changing business environment.
“The study will also make available valuable information for prospective investors on the financing requirements to fully recapitalise the railway system along the North to South Corridor” she said
She added that the Corridor is very pivotal in transforming Zambia into a transport hub for the Southern African region and we will fully embrace all development efforts that the NEPAD Business Foundation, the Southern Africa Development Community and the Development Bank of Southern Africa have embarked on through the North to South Corridor infrastructure development study.
Ms Kabanshi was however quick to mention the government through the Ministry of Transport and Communications is in the final phase of a detailed feasibility study of the Zambia Railways network from Mulobezi in the Western Province to Chingola in the Copperbelt Province.
“The Government is however alive to the fact that the two railway lines (Zambia Railways and TAZARA) have not performed satisfactorily to position the railway sector as the preferred mode of transport in the North to South Transport Corridor” she said
She further said that the performance of the two railway lines has been on the decline for a number of years, due to limited working capital for the two railway systems which has resulted in deferred maintenance of the entire railway infrastructure and equipment, resulting in poor reliability of rolling stock and dilapidated permanent way.
The North South Corridor is one of the key import and export routes for trade moving into and out of Southern Africa and parts of East and Central Africa.
Meanwhile Zambia Railways Limited hosted the Pre-feasibility study inception meeting with railway operators in the SADC region in Lusaka.
Zambia Railways Limited is a member of the Executive Committee of the North-South Corridor which resolved to carry out an infrastructure investment and operating study.
The North South Corridor is Zambia Railway’s main international gateway for rail transportation of cargo destined for Zambia and other countries.
The NEPAD Business Foundation (NBF) secured grant funding for execution of the North South Corridor (NSC) study in June 2016.
The North South Corridor covers the railway stretch from the Republic of South Africa through Zimbabwe and Botswana to the Democratic Republic of Congo passing through Zambia.
The purpose of the study is to develop a North South Corridor (NSC) rail infrastructure and logistics for the rehabilitation and upgrade of equipment and infrastructure on the NSC.
The study will be used as a blue print to grow the freight and passenger volumes transported on the corridor and to reduce the cost of transportation through better price and service strategies.
The study is being funded by the Development Bank of Southern Africa(DBSA) through grant funding secured from the SADC Project Preparation Development Facility(PPDF).
The following organizations attended the meeting:
- Zambia Railways Limited (ZRL)
- Société nationale des Chemins de fer du Congo (SNCC)
- Beitbridge Bulawayo Railways (BBR)
- National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ)
- Transnet Freight Rail (TFR)
- Botswana Railways (BR)
- Swaziland Railway (SR)
- Southern African Railways Association (SARA)
- SADC Secretariat
- Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA)
- Consultant (Arup)
- NEPAD Business Foundation (NBF)
Government is happy with the track rehabilitation progress that Zambia Railways Limited(ZRL) has scored after the repossession of the railway firm from the concessionaire in 2012.
Minister of Transport and Communications Brian Mushimba said the capital injection of US$120 million from the Eurobond has yielded positive results in the track rehabilitation project.
“It is gratifying to note that after the recapitalisation of ZRL in 2013,the train speeds which were as low as 15km/h have been increased to over 40km/h with the ongoing track rehabilitation programme” he said.
Speaking during his tour of ZRL facilities in Kabwe, Mr Mushimba said ZRL is a strategic institution in the transportation chain and therefore there is need to create an environment that will allow it to succeed.
Mr Mushimba said the past performance of ZRL shows that the institution has potential and opportunity for growth and emphasised that it should operate as a profitable entity and be able to declare dividends to the government consistently.
He stressed government’s commitment in ensuring that rail transport is well utilised in the movement of heavy and bulk cargo and help in reducing the damage on the roads.
‘The Statutory Instrument (SI) to compel heavy and bulk cargo to move by rail is a step in the right direction. ZRL should position itself and be more creative and innovative in ensuring that the capacity is enhanced” Mr Mushimba said.
Mr Mushimba has observed that rail transport has not been attractive in the recent years, and that government wants all forms of transportation which includes rail to be accessible and developed.
And touring the ZRL Centralised Train Control (CTC), Mr Mushimba emphasised the importance of a good and modern communication and signalling system in promoting safety and security of goods and passengers.
Mr Mushimba urged ZRL management to revitalise its ZRL Workshop in Kabwe to its former glory of manufacturing farming equipment and furniture.
Meanwhile Zambia Railways Limited Managing Director Christopher Musonda said the consultative meetings on the proposed Statutory Instrument(SI) to compel heavy goods to move by rail has received overwhelming response from various stakeholders.
Mr Musonda said ZRL is positioning itself for the SI by increasing the capacity of its infrastructure and rolling stock to allow the movement of cargo in a more efficient and cost effective manner.
He further said the rehabilitation programme is an ongoing exercise and so far the institution has recorded strides in improving the train speeds and has made progress in the remanufacturing of locomotives and wagons.
The Minister of Transport and Communications ended his tour with the interactive meeting with employees at ZRL Workshop, where he encouraged them to be more productive and innovative in improving the operations of ZRL.