Botswana Railways’ CEO Leonard Makwinja has revealed that one of their main priorities will be the introduction of the Diesel Multiple Units (DMUs) for commuter services.
Addressing members of the media on Wednesday, Makwinja said – the bus like trains with a single train expected to carry a minimum of 280 passengers – will be introduced by the end of this year.
“BR plans to purchase three train sets for the commuter service to use in the following routes Gaborone/Lobatse, Gaborone/Pilane and Francistown/Tonota,” he said.
The three train sets, according to BR CEO, will cost around P50 million. Though they are all second hand, he emphasized that they are going to refurbish them. He said they couldn’t afford to buy new ones as they were too steep for their pockets.
The benefits of using DMUs, according to Makwinja, is that they have better adhesion compared with locomotive hauled coaches and have lighter axle loads.
DMUs are said to be more operationally efficient than locomotive hauled trains, he said, noting that since the introduction of the commuter service in April 2018 to date, passengers’ numbers have increased significantly.
Rolling Stock Maintenance Workshop
Another area of priority for BR will be the construction of the Rolling Stock Maintenance Workshop which is to undertake running maintenance, out of course repairs as well as refurbishment programmes for rolling stock. The facility will also help to eliminate maintenance backlog of wagons.
“To do the current 560 wagon maintenance backlog when outsourced will cost P308 million compared to P170 million annually when done in-house and with the expected increase in rolling stock the project is found to be ideal,” he said. Apart from helping the company in cost serving, Makwinja said the maintenance workshop will also create employment and help in skills development.
Mosetse/Kazungula Rail Link
One of the ambitious projects by BR is the construction of the Mosetse/Kazungula Rail Link. Makwinja is optimistic they will start the construction of the rail line by the second half of 2021.
“The project is to provide a railway line from Mosetse in Botswana, connecting to Zambia and beyond through the Kazungula bridge,” he said, adding that it is part of the North South Corridor (NSC).
NSC is an economic project that upon completion will facilitate greater regional integration to access markets in the north to facilitate economic growth in the SADC region running south-westwards from Livingstone, crossing the Zambezi, and continuing to a junction with the existing Botswana Railways tracks at Mosetse. It is part of SADC regional integration that was spearheaded by former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe when he was the SADC chairman.
Makwinja revealed that the project will be able to link Central African region to maritime ports in South Africa and reduce of haulage traffic on the roads.
Mmamabula/Lephalale Rail Link
Another priority project for Botswana Railways is the construction of the Mmamabula/Lephalale rail link which will directly create 3,900 jobs by the 4th year.
“Over 200 billion coal deposits found in Botswana (at least two thirds of Africa’s coal resource) and the project aims to link these coal deposits to South African heavy haul lines,” he revealed, adding that the railway line will connect Mmamabula in Botswana to Lephalale in South Africa.
The railway, according to BR CEO, will be a gate way to the South African ports for the coal market and route for NSC if coupled with Mosetse/Kazungula line.
“Exposure of Botswana Coal fields to South African heavy haul lines and maritime ports will ensure monetisation of coal through exports,” he optimistically said.
In 2004 Parliament amended the BR Act of 1986 giving the rail company to form Joint Ventures, Subsidiary companies and to exploit other business opportunities.
This gave birth to BR Properties whose mandate is to exploit Botswana Railways land by commercialising it with other investors.
Makwinja said BR Properties is currently developing the Francistown Retail Mall which will become its second retail mall after the Rail Park mall that was opened in 2012 in Gaborone.
The mall, which will be constructed on 11.6 hectares of land, will comprise rental offices, retail shops, a filling station, a hotel, piazza shop, a football court, clinic and a mini bus rank. As a way developing sport, the company will construct a mini-stadium in Mahalapye where they have football and softball teams.