The embattled Botswana Railways has admitted that freight train crashes and accidents could spell doom for its railway line operations. The BR freight train wing which has been the backbone of the company profits has experienced numerous crashes and accidents that pose a threat to the company operations and profitability.
In less than four months three freight trains were involved in accidents while the Botswana passenger train also experienced technical difficulties in its first maiden journey when it was launched last month. The passenger train suffered another tragedy this week when the locomotive engine caught fire between Ramotswa and Lobatse which increased the number of freight train accidents.
The freight train locomotive that was destined to South Africa caught fire just 15km from Ramotswa on its way to Lobatse. Of the twelve fleet of locomotives which were bought in 1982, only four remain whilst others have either been disposed or involved in accidents rendering them obsolete.
Botswana Railways Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dominic Ntwaagae admitted that the freight train which caught fire yesterday between Ramotswa and Lobatse will have a negative impact on BR operations. Ntwaagae said they intend to investigate the incident to find out if there is a need to repair or buy a new train locomotive, adding that the train locomotive engine was used to pull more than 1200 tonnes daily.
“For us to repair the train locomotive we have to check whether it is worth to put money on it looking at what value we will derive from it. The value that we get is to transport goods. If it makes commercial sense to repair the burnt locomotive we will fork out money and repair it, but we have to first investigate and find out what caused the freight train locomotive to catch fire,” he added.
He confidently defended the embattled parastatal saying it has a very good accident record.
“For the last four months in terms of accidents, the worst one was in Lobatse and it was unique. We have investigated the crash and we are due to discuss the report as management, “added Ntwaagae.
He further indicated that another crash was as a result of floods which was an unforeseen circumstance.
Ntwaagae stated that another issue was in relation to the BR passenger train which experienced engine problems on its maiden journey to Francistown.
He said that it was purely an operational issue which brought bad publicity to Botswana Railways. “Everybody now is putting an eye on BR. They are asking themselves what is next,” he said.
However, he encouraged Batswana to have faith in Botswana railways since they have a relatively good accident record.
Ntwaagae stated that the freight train plays an integral part in the economy especially the mining sector. He pointed out that BR transports Soda Ash and salt from the Botswana Soda Ash, transports coal from Morupule and also fuel and building materials from South Africa into the country.