The Southern African Railways Association (Sara) will this year come up with a Regional Railway Infrastructure Development Masterplan to address a number of challenges that continue to pose a threat to SADC’s rail network system. It has been estimated that SADC’s railway infrastructure challenges require about US$100 million.
Railways across the region are hamstrung by poor infrastructure, equipment, statutory provisions, skills drain and poor information technology which largely affect regional integration.
According to the Sara, rehabilitation of region’s railway lines would help railways reclaim their market lost to road network and enhance intra-regional trade and integration.
Currently, rail commands less than 20 percent of the market share in transport due to stiff competition from road transportation.
Briefing journalists after the organisation’s board meeting yesterday, Sara executive director Mr Babe Botana said the masterplan which also seeks to address infrastructure problems being faced by the region’s railway lines will once completed give an exact quantum of how much is required to carry out the exercise.
“We have accessed funds from Development Bank of Southern Africa specifically to do what we call Regional Railway Infrastructure Development Masterplan for railways in the SADC region.
“That masterplan has a pre-feasibility study which will also come up with a bankable document where we will identify projects and rank them according to their priorities across corridors. This masterplan study is expected to be done during the course of this year.
“In fact the regional master plan is meant to give you the conclusive answer to the quantum of funds that are required and that is why we are saying at this stage we are starting with the studies and these studies will be done corridor by corridor.
“We have done different studies in terms of what we call regional railway bottle necks, identification of missing links and infrastructural bottle necks and if we put all these projects together we are looking at more than US$100 million to begin with for the entire region.
“But obviously you cannot do everything at once so you will find for example the National Railways of Zimbabwe has identified a recapitalisation project that is specifically for them, you will find that TransNamib are also doing something, Zambia Railways are also doing something but put everything in totality we are looking at a lot of money in the next two- three years,” said Mr Botana.
Also speaking at the meeting, newly elected Sara president Thembi Moyo said her organisation`s priority list also is to address issues to do with standardisation of cross boarder railway operations to allow seamless transportation of goods as a way of enhancing the region’s re-industrialisation agenda.
“Our railways are already linked in terms of physical linking in the region and we want to exploit that to make sure that it becomes seamless.
“The challenge that we have is that these railways link cross borders into various jurisdictions and they are impediments when crossing borders, so we are now appealing to our policy makers at regional level to say can they come up with policies that remove these impediments so that it is seamless when the trains are travelling because you lose time in crossing borders.
“As railways we have come up with bi-lateral agreements amongst ourselves that allow us to operate among each other’s lines but it’s a process. More needs to be done, we are looking at standardisation of our operational systems but it can be done once everyone else is on the same level so it’s a discussion that is at the top of the priority projects that we are working on,” said Ms Moyo.