Botswana Railways has announced that the much awaited passenger train service will be re-launched in March 2006. The passenger train was halted in 2009 after incurring huge losses that rendered Botswana Railways unable to service and maintain locomotives, thereby compromising passenger safety.
However, Director of Human Capital at Botswana Railways Letlhogonolo Bantsi told the Francistown city council (FCC) last week that the passenger train will be reintroduced in March 2016, with improved customer service offering.
He added that unlike in the past, the new passenger train will stop at six proposed stations being Lobatse, Gaborone, Mahalapye, Palapye, Serule and Francistown. Bantsi explained that this is meant to improve the time that the train takes before reaching its destination.
“We reduced the stop stations from the previous 19 to six because we wanted to improve our service offering especially with regards to time and efficiency,” he said.
Currently, Botswana Railways is implementing a portfolio of work packages that will culminate in commencement of the passenger train service. These packages includes procurement of passenger coaches, procurement of ticketing and public address systems, upgrading and refurbishment of stations infrastructure and procurement of outsourced services such as cleaning, security and catering services.
“The revised service commencement is planned for March 2016, depending on the delivery schedule of the manufacturer of passenger coaches,” revealed Bantsi.
The tender for manufacturing of the 37 passenger coaches has been awarded to Transnet SOC Ltd, a South African company.
The contract was signed on September 11 and all coaches are expected to be delivered by April 2016.
“While the coaches will be delivered in batches, we expect Transnet to have delivered enough coaches to commence the service by March 2016, in line with the revised commencement date of the passenger train service. We are also refurbishing stations and constructing platforms,” he said.
In line with Botswana Railways’ new service proposition, stations in Francistown, Palapye, Mahalapye, Gaborone and Lobatse are being refurbished and uplifted. Procurement of the passenger reservation and ticketing system is also underway. Unlike in the past, the new reservation and ticketing system is expected to greatly improve customer convenience.
“Tickets will be sold at the various stations and through other third party outlets like retail shops, online ticketing and mobile applications,” said Bantsi.
Botswana Railways is also in the process of procuring a public address system to facilitate easier communication with passengers. The tender for procurement of the public address system will be adjudicated in December 2015 while delivery is expected to take four weeks.
Botswana Railways has created a completely new section that will focus solely on the successful operation of the passenger train.
This development is expected to create around thirty jobs.
“We have already appointed a Passenger Services Manager and he started work in November 2015. Recruitment for other positions is ongoing and will be completed by end of February 2016,” said Bantsi.