The government, through Botswana Railways (BR), has taken a number of initiatives to improve railway capacity and performance, which include BR safe working signalling system and also the recapitalisation of BR, which involves the procurement of 562 new wagons.
BR acting Chief Executive Officer, Stephen Makuke, says BR has planned modernisation of four locomotives and also planned procurement of six new locomotives.
Makuke observed that railways in the region generally suffer from infrastructural fatigue coupled with motive power failures. He also pointed out that regional railways’ weak resource base makes them vulnerable to competition from other transport modes, resulting in loss of market share.
“This loss of market share is not only harmful to the railways alone, but also imposes a tax on the regional economy. The fact that rail is ordinarily cheaper than road implies that any modal shift from rail to road imposes a huge cost on regional economies with the ultimate effect of compromising their competitiveness and overall wellbeing of SADC citizens,” he said.
He stated that BR believes in the positive contribution of railways to the SADC economy and therefore it is the core business to ensure that railways play their role effectively.
Speaking at the Southern African Railways Association (SARA) annual executive committee meeting in Gaborone, Makuke stated that railways should individually and collectively through SARA lobby for investment in infrastructure and railways in general.
He pointed out that the Brazzaville Declaration of 2006, to which African Union Ministers responsible for railways committed themselves, remains the point of reference for the diagnosis of railways challenges and proposed way forward.
“We are all aware of the increase in demand for our services arising from mineral discoveries that have been made in the region in recent years. Our challenge as railways is to provide capacity that will cater for both current and future demand,” said Makuke.
He has spoken about the current inadequacy of railway capacity militating against the ability to provide services that meet customer requirements. He said there is need to address both railway infrastructure and operating equipment (locomotives and wagons) challenges. Makuke added that inadequacy may be in the form of poor state of infrastructure or shortage and or poor condition of operating equipment.
“BR is currently evaluating a business case for the construction of the Mosetse- Kazungula missing rail link. The Trans Kalahari Rail Line is at an advanced stage,” Makuke revealed.
He emphasized that railways should embrace developments and leverage on technological developments if their service offering is to remain appropriate to customer needs.
He added that it will assist in regaining or at least maintain rail market share.
“We should consider the issue of safety in railways as key to our service offering. Undertaking our operations in a safe manner protects our employees, infrastructure, equipment, facilities, customer goods, society and the environment.”
He added that failure to observe safety in the operation has a direct negative effect on capacity and quality of service, profits and corporate citizenry.