Walvis Bay — Financially strained national railway freight operator, TransNamib, has been dealt a heavy financial double-blow. The derailing of the freighter train on Saturday morning inflicted an estimated N$68 million loss on the already struggling company, which has been under serious financial strain in the last three months due to labour unrest.
The TransNamib train derailed early Saturday morning nearly causing a collision with a passenger train tailing it.
The derailed train was carrying tonnes of manganese from Okahandja to the Port of Walvis Bay for shipment. The serene surroundings of the picturesque coastal dunes, near the tourism attraction Dune 7, the highest dune in the coastal dune belt, is now home to the wreckage of a locomotive on its side with mangled wagons and containers scattered about.
About 80 metres of the railway line will have to be repaired, and TransNamib also has to replace the locomotive and flatbed wagons.
The company estimates the replacement cost for the locomotive at about N$30 million and N$300 000 per flatbed wagon.
Repairing the railway line would cost nearly N$250 000.
However, the acting chief executive officer of TransNamib, Eugenia Tjaronda, says the costs could be as high as N$68 million, including labour and other ancillary services.
TransNamib has just survived a spate of industrial actions, the last of which required the personal intervention of President Hifikepunye Pohamba to prevent the company from financial ruin.
Tjaronda said preliminary investigations have revealed that the cause of the accident was prior damage to the railway line that was not reported to TransNamib.
There are eyewitness accounts of a truck driving and getting stuck on the railway line on November 30.
"As a result, the railway line was damaged and a section broke off. Unfortunately, this incident was not reported to the TransNamib team to stop trains until the railway line was repaired. By the time the train driver saw the gap in the line it was too late to stop the locomotives from derailing. The train driver was treated for shock, and his assistant was taken to hospital for injuries," Tjaronda said.
TransNamib has in the meantime implemented an emergency plan with teams from the engineering and operations departments clearing the wreckage from the railway line. "With dedicated, committed and concerted efforts from these teams, the line will hopefully be operational by Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning," Tjaronda emphasised.