11 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Moves Afoot to Revive Musina-Beitbridge Rail Line

THE Public Against Traffic Accidents Bureau has entered into a partnership with the National Railways of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, South Africa's Spoornet, Mainline and Cross Border Services in a bid to revive the Musina-Beitbridge railway line and ease the congestion at Beitbridge Border Post.

The project was mooted in 2010 in preparation for the soccer World Cup in South Africa but it was abandoned after some of the partners cited security concerns. The companies had already held meetings and agreed to use the railway line to ferry fans travelling from Zimbabwe before the project was cancelled.

Managing director of PATAB Mr John Manjengwa, said if all stakeholders joined forces, the train service would be up and running by April this year. He said his company had engaged Zimra and the Ministry of Transport, Communications and Infrastructural Development so that they work together on the project.

"This is a Public-Private Partnership initiative where we partner with various organisations to make our country operate more efficiently," he said.

"We now have an agreement with the South African authorities to extend the train service that is currently running from Johannesburg to Musina so that it can leave passengers at Beitbridge railway line border instead. Beitbridge Town Council has given us land on which to build ablution facilities and a terminus for buses that will pick up people disembarking from the train and transport them to various destinations."

He said there were existing structures at the Beitbridge railway line border that Zimra needed to spruce up and it would be up and running for the clearance of goods.

Mr Manjengwa added that should the railway line start functioning properly, it would relieve almost 50 percent of the pressure from the border post, as Zimra officials would clear passengers on the train.

He said this would mean that all goods and some passengers would use the railway while vehicles and the remaining people would be cleared at the border post.

"The need to decongest Beitbridge Border Post is urgent. Once it has been done, we will start noticing improvements in the flow of business in both countries," he said.

There has been talk of creating another route to Beitbridge but Mr Manjengwa said this might take some time and the project would require a lot of funding for new infrastructure to be put in place. He said their project would be a quicker solution that would provide the much-needed relief at Beitbridge.

Mr Manjengwa said the inspection and rehabilitation of the railway line would commence as soon as Zimra and the NRZ has done all the logistics and given the go-ahead.

He said there were plans to revive the train service from Beitbridge-Harare and Beitbridge-Bulawayo that would ferry passengers that disembark at Beitbridge from Johannesburg.

"This project could help many people stranded at the border for hours on end every day. Soon congestion at Beitbridge will be a thing of the past and people will not have to wait for long just to be cleared," he said.

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