Windhoek — There is still no passenger train services from Windhoek to the northern regions, despite the completion of the modern multi-million dollar railway network that extends up to the Oshikango border post.
National railway operator, TransNamib, puts the blame on the dilapidated railway line between Kranzberg and Otjiwarongo, a stretch that has been rendered unsuitable for passenger trains for the last seven years.
However, TransNamib also does not have enough passenger coaches for the luxury 'Omugulu Gwombashe Star', bought specifically to cater for the northern railway stretch although it is not designed for long distances.
"The train will work as soon as the railway line is fixed because it has not been fixed since it became unfit for passenger transport seven years ago," Christina Kharigus the control clerk in the TransNamib passenger department in Windhoek told New Era.
TransNamib is currently operating a limited passenger service from Tsumeb to Oshikango. For the past two years, northbound passengers had to be shuttled with buses between Kranzberg and Otjiwarongo during the festive season. This too has ended, however, with TransNamib saying shuttling passengers has bloated the company's operational budget.
"Hiring of buses for this journey is very expensive. This does not mean that we do not value our loyal passengers, but TransNamib is currently facing financial challenges and we are hopeful we can start providing uninterrupted services some time next year," said Elaine Claasen, the company secretariat assistant at TransNamib.
The Chinese-made Diesel Multiple Unit Train (DMU), Omugulu Gwombashe Star, is currently confined to Windhoek, after Chinese engineers repaired the damages caused by long-distance travelling about two years ago, at great cost.
TransNamib is yet to find a permanent solution for the DMU - so-called because each passenger car has its own engine to improve efficiency.
The other locomotives that TransNamib bought along with the DMU were also found unsuitable for local conditions, and TransNamib does not know what to do with them.
The controversial deal worth more than N$44 million was clinched nearly 10 years ago.