Works and Transport Minister, Lesego Motsumi went on a tirade Friday saying that she is not satisfied with the level of knowledge and skills foreign companies operating here transfer to Batswana.
Officiating at the Botswana Railways event to mark the commissioning of a trail-blazing safe working system project at Phakalane level crossing, Motsumi acknowledged the positive developments brought into the country by Ansaldo Signal company but expressed concern that foreign companies were doing less to develop the citizenry with knowledge and skills, particularly those skewed towards technology.
“Botswana is grateful of the positive development brought about by Ansaldo Signal company to renew and develop the signaling and telecommunications infrastructure of Botswana Railways with a comprehensive integrated system that minimizes delays in operations and reduces the risk of accidents on the main line and at railway stations.”
Ansaldo Signal Asia Pacific was engaged by BR to come up with a system dubbed “ fail safe” ensuring that trains approaching level crossing level crossings are automatically detected and motorists are given a minimum of 30 seconds about the incoming train.
The Ansaldo designed technology is being used in more than 50 countries and has proved to have reduced deaths mainly associated with trains and vehicles at the crossing levels.
In her barrage at the foreign investors coming into this country, Motsumi said the developments of a country should incorporate the public who are the tax-payers. She said the project to renew Botswana Railways safe working systems was obtained from the public coffers to the tune of millions of pula and to develop and equip the public with knowledge and skills is a good and welcome development.
“I, therefore, urge foreign companies, Ansaldo included, to not only contribute to the positive developments of the country but to impart knowledge and skills to the locals as well,” Motsumi said.
Phakalane level crossing ÔÇô which is the first among the 21 level crossing collectively implemented at the tune of P 165.5 million ÔÇö- was renewed and developed with protection mechanisms which include activated visual audible devices by the Asian pacific tech- savvy company, with the view to minimize train-motorists related fatal accidents.
As the train approaches, the number of wheels is counted, the warning system is activated, audible alarm and lights operate immediately and, after 10 seconds, the gates close. When the train passes over the crossing, the wheels are counted again and if the sum equals the number counted in the warning system is de-activated, the gates open and the lights and audible alarm are turned off.
The project is world acclaimed.
“The commissioning of Phakalane level crossing, which is protected by Botswana Railways, demonstrates the commitment that my ministry has on the safety of our people. We have over the years been concerned about the number of fatal road accidents that occur at level crossings, particularly that statistics have shown that road accidents rank number two after HIV/AIDS in the cause of deaths in Botswana. This is a matter of grave concern not only to my ministry but the nation at large.”
Motsumi added, “As a result of this concern, the ministry has undertaken various initiatives to address the number of accidents that happen at the road-rail crossings. These include public education campaigns, construction of road over rail bridges and level protection such as the Phakalane level crossing.”
Motsumi said, as a government, they have not only charged Botswana Railways with the responsibility of being self-sustaining by making profit but also for it to ensure that the public is safe and the assets of the company are safe.
The Works and Telecommunications minister emphasized patience over panic, adding that the public should kindly take heed and exercise caution, especially at the level crossings that are fully protected to warn road users of oncoming trains.
Motsumi promised similar developments at other level crossings in the future.
The CEO of Anasaldo Signal company, Lyle Jackson, said the company was one of the world’s leaders in the development of signaling, communications, automation and information systems for the railway and mass industries.
“We currently have reference systems, successfully installed, operating and being fully supported in more than fifty countries around the world.
The company is dedicated to the development, implementation and support of technologies that are designed to improve railway operations through improved safety and reliability.
“Irrespective of which part of the world one focuses on there is a major resurgence in the rail industry.
Railways are being recognized as an essential part of countries’ infrastructure and a vital element in providing efficient, cost effective logistics and support of domestic and import/export economies. No matter where one looks, Europe, USA, Australia, India, China or Botswana, for that matter, the railway operational issues are the same. Railways must drive for improved safety which is paramount along with operating efficiencies to ensure long term sustainability of this vital infrastructure,” Jackson observed.