by GIFT NDOLWANE
JOHANNESBURG – AFTER years lying derelict owing to a snub by some governments in the region, the railway sector has bounced back as a key component of promoting intra-African trade, particularly in the Southern region.
The region has taken a lead in intra-continental trade, hence there is excitement at the prospects offered by the 4 000-kilometre North South Rail Corridor running from southern mining district of Kolwezi in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to the ports of Durban and Richards Bay in the southeastern KwaZulu-Natal Province in South Africa.
This project is touted as having potential to create economic opportunities through its alignment to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) infrastructure development master plan and industrialisation strategy.
Industry leaders recently spoke highly of the project. Regional leaders responsible for transport have endorsed it. The African Union (AU) has hailed the model.
“The North South Corridor rail project has been endorsed by the highest policy makers in the region,” said Mapolao Mokoena, Director of Infrastructure Directorate in the SADC Secretariat.
The project has received a major boost after the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between South African Heavy Haul Association (SAHHA) and the Southern African Railways Association (SARA).
The milestone marks the beginning of a collaboration for two organisations to work together in ensuring the revival of the technical chapter of the Southern African railway system.
SAHHA and SARA signed the MoU in Johannesburg recently to map a common view of the implications of technology in their businesses and more importantly, develop a common strategy to implement technology to be able to reap maximum benefits to the SADC region.
Operators in the region are excited with the agreement.
“The North South Corridor is a backbone of transport system into the hinterland and obviously back to the ports,” said Thembi Moyo, Chief Executive Officer of the Beitbridge-Bulawayo Rail Limited.
Lewis Mukwanda, CEO of the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ), said the rail transport, once rehabilitated and upgraded would offer a cost-effective solution such that regional exports would be competitive.
Over the years, the rail operators along the corridor have been making significant efforts to improve the railway service.
Ravi Nair, CEO of Transnet Freight Rail, said the company was committed to ensuring the success of the North South Corridor.
“From a capacity point of view, Transnet has made available locomotives and wagons available for the upgrade of the NRZ. At the moment, we are reinventing locomotives that we will make available for Zambian Railways upgrade,” Nair said.
Chairman of SARA Christopher Musonda, who is also CEO of Zambia Railways, said, “The the MOU is a milestone set to improve collaboration between operators in the region.”
– CAJ News