Friday, December 3, 2021

BR mulls re-introducing a passenger train

Hardly two years after Government decided to terminate the passenger train service run by Botswana Railways (BR), all indications are that the service could be restored again.

The Minister of Transport and Communications, Frank Ramsden, has indicated that government will consider reintroducing Botswana Railways passenger service train, which was discontinued in 2009, once the economy recovers.

However, the minister maintains that it is a development that might take time and will not happen in the near future.

 The ailing BR has been registering losses running into millions of pula, attributed to overhaul and maintenance costs of locomotives and wagons as well as costs associated with train operations, such as fuel and wagon hire.

The losses led to the discontinuation of the passenger train.

“The BR passenger service was a burden digging from the coffers┬áaccrued from┬áother sectors of the economy.┬áWe will consider reintroducing the trains when we are satisfied that the economy has improved,” Ramsden said on Monday.

The minister said the government was considering buying about 300 coaches but the cost of doing so was prohibitive under the current economic situation.

“Passenger coaches┬áfor instance cost about P3 million each while soda ash wagons cost between P1.5 and P2 million,” Ramsden said.

There have been observations that passenger train services worldwide do not have the capacity to make profits without government subsidies. For the BR passenger service to be reintroduced, the government will have to find ways to fund the coach acquisition or some way to subsidise the company. It has been suggested that the passenger train service can only survive if it is subsidised or run on a public private partnership (PPP) and possible joint ventures.

BR has sold 38 coaches for a total of over P12 million.

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