The Botswana Railways has introduced a daily train from Lobatse to Gaborone, giving a breather to commuters who have been struggling with traffic congestion and the recently introduced public transport fares.
The commuter train which began its operations on Monday will benefit commuters from the south of the capital, mainly from Lobatse, Otse and Ramotswa, who have been relying on road transport since the commuter train was halted 12 years ago. The move by Botswana railways comes at a time when commuters were complaining of the traffic congestion that they have been subjected to in the last two years as the Boatle-Game City road project continues under construction.
The multi-billion dual carriage way whose construction began in earnest in 2017 is currently behind schedule, with the progress on the construction of the road project to date at 25 percent against a planned 33 percent target. The minister of Transport and communications, Kitso Mokaila, told parliament in March that it is unlikely that the project will be completed on time and within the initially approved budget. The delays have been due to late acquisition of burrow pits, late relocation of services at Boatle and Kgale.
Other than the ease of traffic congestion, the commuters have expressed delight at the option of taking the less pricey train compared to public transport. The commuter train departs Lobatse in the morning at 05:30 am, making stopovers at Otse and Ramotswa, before arriving in Gaborone at 06:50 am. The train the makes another second trip in the evening at 18:00pm in Gaborone, arriving in Lobatse at 19:35 pm. Commuters are also spoilt for choice as they have the option of boarding the standard class or the business class.
The standard class will be a firm favourite amongst commuters who are looking at cutting transport costs: while the bus fare from Lobatse to Gaborone is P19, the standard class train ticket will be P17. Commuters from Ramotswa are looking at paying P8 instead of the usual P9.30 they had to pay to bus operators.
In early 2009, Botswana Railways announced it was to stop all passenger service on the main line across Botswana because of mounting losses. The day train stopped running in 2006, and the overnight train between Francistown, Gaborone and Lobatse stopped running in April 2009. However, in 2015 they announced that passenger service would be revived, refurbished coaches were procured and an overnight Francistown-Gaborone-Lobatse train service was reinstated on 23 March 2016.