CENTRAL East Africa Rails (CEAR), the company that has been engaged to operate the Chipata-Mchinji rail to the Nacala corridors in Mozambique via Malawi says it will only run cargo and not passenger services because the latter was not profitable.
And CEAR says its flight wagon could not reach Chipata despite the official commissioning of the project two years ago because the Zambian Government has not yet constructed a dry port for loading and offloading of goods including storage facilities.
Speaking when he briefed Zambian journalists who toured the Chipata-Mchinji project on the commemoration of this year's Southern African Development Community (SADC) day, CEAR Civil Engineer Paul Madula said even if the project was to be operational, it would not run passenger services because it was expensive to maintain.
CEAR is a consortium led by the Development Corporation that won the right to operate the Malawi Rail network which has links to the Nacala corridors in Mozambique.
Mr Madula said the rail company had 390 wagons would only concentrate on carrying cargo and not passengers.
"CEAR will only run cargo because passenger trains were not profitable and were very expensive to maintain.
"The passenger train would need the Government to subsidise its operation" he said.
CEAR had already signed a three year contract with Lafarge Malawi to transport clinker from Lafarge Cement in Chilanga, Zambia.
Clinker is an ingredient used in the manufacturing of cement.
The project has however failed to take off because the Zambian Government has not secured a dry port in Chipata.
Mr Madula said CEAR is expected to be transporting a total 5,600 tonnes of clinker per month over a period of three years.
Zambia Railways Limited acting Managing Director Regina Mwale said lack of funds has delayed the erecting of a dry port on the Zambian side.
Chipata-Mchinji railway line Project Engineer Ernest Silwamba said the Zambian Government had engaged a Chinese firm to do the feasibility study on the construction of the dry port.
He said the feasibility study had been completed and what was remaining was designing of the storage facility.
Eastern Province Permanent Secretary Hlobotha Nkunika said the Zambian Government was in the process of signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with CEAR to manage the 24 kilometre stretch on the Zambian side.
The Mchinji-Chipata railway was conceived in 1982 as part of a bilateral project between Zambia and Malawi.
The Malawian government with assistance from the Canadian government managed to complete work on their side within the stipulated time frame in 1984, while the construction works on the Zambian side stalled due to inadequate funds.
Only a stretch of 24 kilometers erected from the provincial capital of Chipata to connect it to Mchinji district in Malawi.
The multi million dollar project that had been turned into a white elephant for three decades was only revitalised in 2006 by the Late president Levy Mwanawasa at a tune of US $10 million.
The project was officially commissioned on August 27, 2010 after an on-and-off construction works due to various challenges ranging from lack of resources and harsh rainy conditions.
On a long term, the project is supposed to be connected to Mpika District in Muchinga Province to link it to the Tanzania Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA) via Petuke District from Chipata.
Last year, the Government signed a $1.5 million MoU with a Chinese civil engineering construction company to conduct a feasibility study for the construction of the rail line from Chipata to Mpika through Petauke.
CEAR senior marketing officer from Malawi Lexone Kajanje said the rail would act as a link between Zambia and Malawi.