Rail-ly expensive!

BR set to spend P15 billion on two railway lines

In an ambitious move to position the country as a transport and logistical hub in the region, Botswana Railways (BR) has announced plans to construct two railway lines at a cost of P15 billion.

Attempting to sell the idea to potential investors, BR held a meeting on Monday, inviting possible partners to come on board for the construction of the two projects.

Outlining the grand plan, BR CEO Leonard Makwinja revealed it involves the construction of a 367km railway line running from Mosetse village in the North East to Kazungula, connecting Botswana with Zambia.

“We believe two million tonnes of freight will move onto this line and this will grow to four million tonnes within the next five years,” a visibly excited Makwinja told various stakeholders at the highly attended gathering in Gaborone.

The CEO said the Chinese government has already shown ‘capacity’ and ‘willingness’ to participate in the project.

Along the railway line, stations will be constructed in four areas: Mosetse, Nata, Pandamatenga and Kazungula.

The second undertaking is to build a line connecting Mmamabula coalfields to Lephalale, a distance of roughly 57km.

“This is mainly to open up the coal mining,” explained Makwinja, before adding rhetorically, “There are 200 billion tonnes of coal; why not take advantage of this coal to address demand?”

The railway line would prove a welcome boost to the country’s coal mining companies, who are looking at sustainable routes to transport their product to the rest of the market.

Already, coal mining enterprise, Minergy has started production at its Medie Mine, located near Lentsweletau in the Kweneng District.

According to Makwinja, BR has engaged local coal mines to find out their transport needs to drive coal mining development in Botswana.

The Mmamabula – Lephalale link is set to cost around P2 billion and is designed as a heavy haul, estimated to initially carry 10.5 metric tonnes per annum in the first two years, before eventually increasing to 24 metric tonnes per annum.

Both projects are currently at studying phase, and according to Makwinja, the challenge is financing.

This is something that was acknowledged by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport of Communications, Kabelo Ebineng.

“These are capital intensive projects that needed us to think outside the box and approach you, the private sector, so that we may find synergies and areas of collaboration,” noted the P.S.

Ebineng believes the Mosetse – Kazungula line is vital in that it will connect Botswana to the rest of the North African market through Zambia. Additionally the Mmamabula – Lephalale railway link will provide the shortest route for the North-South Corridor.

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