1 February 2013

Zambia: ZRL Masterplan Uplifting

An efficient and reliable railway transport network is key to the promotion of national development and as such, the system's infrastructure needs urgent attention to sustain economic growth.

A smooth railway system will not only help reduce immense pressure on the country's road network long ravaged by tear and wear, but also help bring down the cost of production and transportation.

It will promote local industry and help create massive employment opportunities.

Zambia Railways Limited (ZRL) chief executive officer Clive Chirwa's masterplan to upgrade the system has thus come at an opportune time when the country has set in motion a viable growth agenda.

Professor Chirwa's announcement that the rail system will undergo an intensive rehabilitation programme is testimony of valuable commitment to this cause to which US$120 million has been allocated.

This project once realised will reduce delays in the transportation of goods and services as well as promote efficiency.

Giving a new facelift to the whole chain of infrastructure dotted along the line of rail from Livingstone to Chingola and the construction of an underground train station in Lusaka will definitely give a new lease of life to the whole transport system.

The planned construction of a new line from Livingstone to Chingola to run side-by-side with the existing one is also a great idea that should be executed immediately.

It will be much cheaper to haul Zambia's imports and exports by rail transport than to rely on the already chocked and less safe road transport.

To this end, the Patriotic Front (PF) Government has embarked on a crucial and ambitious programme to ensure that the national rail system is resuscitated to match the standards of other systems in the region.

Government's move to revoke the concession entered into with the Railway Systems of Zambia (RSZ) was timely and has helped to restore public confidence in the sector.

Had it not been for that action, the rail system would have remained a shell and irrelevant to the country's economic well-being.

The Ndola-Luanshya railway line will equally be revived as it is key to the haulage of copper ore to processing facilities as well as copper cathodes for the export market from Luanshya Copper Mine (LCM).

This line will also help service the more than 500 small-scale farmers along the Kafubu Farm Bloc who have been facing challenges in transporting their produce to the nearest markets on the Copperbelt and beyond.

It will also give impetus and encouragement to other farmers along the main line of rail to grow more food as an improved network will provide guarantee for their transport needs.

The other key line is Mulobezi which citizens of this country want the concession revisited if the whole railway system is to be fully revamped.

In addition, there is need to ensure that the company acquires new locomotive engines and enough rolling stock that will include passenger coaches to ease pressure on road passenger and cargo haulage services.

It will be cardinal to put in place an efficient and strong security system which will police the new infrastructure to be set up, to avoid a repeat of what happened to the railway slippers and other infrastructure in the past.

Although the project is massive and will gobble up more money than estimated, the onus is on the Government to ensure that funds needed for this ambitious capital project are quickly sourced so that it builds a railway system of tomorrow, to match modern standards obtaining in other systems worldwide.

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