Zambia Railways Limited plans to repossess Mulobezi Railway from the concessionaire to ensure that it becomes a critical integral part of the company.
The concession agreement with the Mulobezi operator comes to an end this December.
In an interview in Livingstone, Zambia Railways chief executive officer Muyenga Atanga says Mulobezi line has been neglected for a very long time.
“Government has been releasing some funds on a monthly basis so that we are able to service the line. Our plan for Mulobezi is to take it over fully and ensure that it becomes a very critical integral part of Zambia Railways,” he said.
Dr Atanga said there is need to rehabilitate the line and the rolling stock so it can meet the aspiration of the customers’ needs.
“The key issue about Mulobezi is that everything available in terms of equipment, machinery and the train is provided for by Zambia Railways. The cardinal issue is the track that needs to be rehabilitated; it’s in a bad state and takes time to reach Mulobezi,” he said.
He said Zambia Railways’ focus is to ensure that the existing 1,062 kilometers railway line from Chilibombwe to Livingstone is rehabilitated to effectively service the mines on the Copperbelt.
Dr Atanga said Zambia Railways has ordered 50 coaches expected in the country by July next year.
“Passengers need to be well serviced and this development will offload a lot of cargo from the road to the railway line,” he said.
|Fast facts about Mulobezi Railway:|
|Mulobezi Railway||Also known as ‘Zambezi Sawmills Railway’|
|Original purpose||Carry timber from Mulobezi to Livingstone|
|Narrow gauge line||1 067mm|
|Length of railway line from Chilibombwe to Livingstone||1 062 km|
|Amount of cargo Zambia Railways handles||12% of 8.3 million tonnes|
|Number of passengers per year||200 000|
Out of the 8.3 million metric tonnes of cargo on the market, Zambia Railways handles 12 percent. However, the company’s goal is to increase cargo traffic to 50 percent after the rehabilitation of the track and rolling stocks.
He said Zambia Railways expects to ferry 1.13 million MT of cargo this year, 1.7 million MT next year and 3.6 million MT by 2018.
On the passenger service, Dr Atanga said goal is to transport 200,000 passengers per year and double the figure to 400,000 once the line is fully operational.
He, however, said vandalism is a major problem affecting Zambia Railways operations and appealed to the public to be vigilant to curb the vice as the railway network is a major transport route to move copper and other goods to earn foreign exchange.
“It is the responsibility of everyone to protect Zambia Railways assets, people are vandalising the line for purpose of selling scrap metal,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dr Atanga says construction of Greenfield projects like the Northwest railway line is vital for boosting Zambia Railways business.
He said construction of a 554 Km new line from Chingola to Jimbe on the Angolan border will assist to ferry copper from the North-western Province to Lobito Port which is cost effective than moving cargo to Durban.
He appealed to Government to connect Mpika to the already existing Chipata-Mchinji Railway line to create an exit through Nacala in Mozambique.
“These are very cardinal for us at the moment; connectivity in other areas depends on the economic activity available in those places. We are looking at the development of the Kazungula Bridge and possibility of connecting to Botswana to Namibia,” he said.
On the tourism side, the income will be small, but it can help. The railway runs through some beautiful countryside; it is a must-do for steam enthusiasts and Mulobezi is not far from Kafue National Park. Could we provide carriages to take vehicles so that cars could be taken by train to Mulobezi and then de-bus from there for a trip into the park? There are probably many opportunities, but surely we can look at those before we go to the expense of rehabilitating the line.
Date: 6 August 2013