Sunday, September 24, 2023

Rail or air, it’s highway to hell for Batswana

The turbulent torn Air Botswana, all the more eager to be privatised for over a decade since has embarked on a restructuring expensive project expected to cost P15million.

This following government’s consistently boring line of a benchmarking exercise that was undertaken, as part of migration of best practice in the industry. 

This is one of governments’ transportation agencies which have been crippling the State coffers for survival together with the Botswana Railways on the other hand. 

As Botswana Railways developed a growth strategy for the period 2019/2020- 2023/2024; Air Botswana’s focus of the project is to optimise the level of resources being deployed against the fleet in operation, to a level where the business remains sustainable and operationally efficient. 

The Minister of Transport and Communications, Thulaganyo Segokgo recently told Parliament as he presented the proposed strategies, programmes and projects for the remainder of National Development Plan (NDP) 11 that: the aviation industry averages 50 personnel per aircraft and at current levels and Air Botswana has been over indexed at 150 employees per aircraft. 

“Following the acquisition of two ATR72-600, the new generation turbo-propelled, aircraft and an Embraer E170 jet, plans are at an advanced stage to secure a second jet on a lease basis which will enable route expansion.  

With the integration of new aircraft completed, the airline intends to include Harare and Lusaka from Gaborone, in its route network,” Segokgo further updated Parliament.  

As part of its readiness to secure Qatar Airways, Air Botswana has invested an estimated P20 million on procurement of equipment and personnel related expenses. The servicing of Qatar Airways bolsters Air Botswana’s revenue base and helps the airline diversify its portfolio. 

The transport ministry, through the Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana has embarked on large-scale refurbishment of existing Maun Airport terminal building, to cater for the surge observed in the number of passengers utilising the airport. This surge resulted in passenger overcrowding and congestion during peak periods. It is anticipated that after completion of the refurbishment of this phase 1 expansion project, the passenger facilitation and circulation will be improved by over 50 per cent. The terminal building refurbishment project commenced on 26th April 2019 and was anticipated to be completed by July 2020 at a cost of P121 million. 

The other ailing entity Botswana Railways which in recent years been embattled with rail accidents, has come up with a long-term plan growth strategy for the period 2019-2024- containing a balance between short-term actions, to address immediate priorities and longer-term actions. 

This will ensure sustained creation of value for Botswana Railways and its customers, amongst the key focus areas identified from the growth strategy. 

The strategy is expected to turn around Botswana Railways into profitability in terms of tonnage and revenue growth.  Forming part of the railways’ projects under NDP 11, currently Botswana Railways is about to award a tender for the feasibility study of the Mosetse-Kazungula rail link which will link to the Kazungula Bridge Project. 

Another project which has been proposed under the “Public Private Partnership (PPP)” Flagship is the Mmamabula-Lephalale rail link to ferry coal from the coal fields within the Mmamabula coal rich area to markets in South Africa and beyond. The rail link is estimated at around 120 kilometres (km), of which 56kms will stretch from Botswana side. Whilst the remaining 67km will traverse South Africa, inclusive of the bridge.


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