Friday, December 1, 2023

Govt. sits on Botswana Railways accident report

Botswana Railways (BR) Board Chairman Adolphe Hirschfeld has revealed that the BR Accident Report is complete and has been handed to government to act on it.

The report was done following an investigation into an accident in which a BR passenger train derailed on the 10th of December in 2019 killing two of its employees, a Trainman and a Permanent Way Inspector.

The passenger train which was carrying 395 passengers including crew members was heading to Francistown from Gaborone. Two crew members and three passengers sustained minor injuries.

Responding to media questions during a SARA(Southern African Railway Association)  Safety Week Commemoration event held by BR recently in Francistown, Hirschifeld said the investigations were completed and the report was given to the shareholder being the government.

The investigation was led by the Directorate of Accident Investigation, a team appointed by the Ministry of Transport and Communication.

“The report is in the custody of government which is the sole shareholder at Botswana Railways. The shareholder is the one who has the responsibility to disclose it to the public,” he said.

BR held the SARA Safety Week Commemoration event in Francistown to raise awareness and sensitize members of the public especially motorists on level crossing accidents. SARA was established in 1996 and its objective is among others; to promote and lobby for rail transport. It also aims to promote interconnectivity and cross border operation of railways for regional and continental rail network connectivity in Southern Africa.

Touching on level cross accidents that involve trains and motorists Hirschifeld said BR has a responsibility is to protect members of the public, BR employees, property and goods from accidents.

“People should bear in mind the fact that unlike motor vehicles, trains or locomotives require a long breaking distance during an emergency. It is very important for motor vehicle drivers to exercise caution at all times at level crossings,” he warned.

He however said rail transport plays a significant role in any economy as it is much effective and very reliable.

Hirschifeld said successful economies in Europe and even economic giants such as China in Asia use rail transport for goods and passengers.

He said Botswana can follow suit and reap a lot of benefits from usage of train as a mode transport. He said the upcoming construction of Mosetsi – Kazungula railway line and the Mmamabula railway line that joins Botswana with South Africa will add value to the economy.

“It is very important for us as a country to have railway transport as we cannot rely solely on road transportation especially when we transport heavy goods such as coal, copper and even fuel. Botswana has abundant minerals therefore rail transport is necessary in that regard,” he said.

On a different note he said it is not easy to run a railway business as it is expensive. He said the cheapest locomotive costs at least P30 million each.

He also said when these locomotives get involved in rail accidents, they become expensive to repair. He further revealed BR is in the process of constructing another railway line (Trans-Kalahari Railway line) from Botswana to Namibia, Walvis Bay where BR has a dry port.

“Plans are at an advanced stage to construct this railway line to Namibia as BR has a dry port in Walvis Bay,” he said.


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