Windhoek — The national rail operator, TransNamib, is subtly pleading with government to quadruple its budget allocation. TransNamib says it is in a financial predicament in which it cannot afford a replacement programme for its aged rolling-stock vehicle fleet and still maintain the railway network, unless the State avails significant financial assistance. 'It could in future be catastrophic for TransNamib to continue operating with the current old and dilapidated rolling stock and equipment,' TransNamib's Company Secretary, Eugenia Tjaronda, told New Era.
The plea is in the thick of the now too often occurrences of train-derailing accidents, with the most recent accident, on Thursday last week, claiming the life of an assistant train driver. The train driver is still being treated in the Cottage Medi-Clinic hospital in Swakopmund and is reported to be in a stable condition. A TransNamib freight train carrying manganese ore derailed just outside the mining town of Arandis, when three wagons detached from the main train. The impact of the detachment caused two locomotives and 32 wagons to veer off the rail track. Another derailment in Walvis Bay during December last year was blamed on a third party who apparently damaged the railway line while crossing it with a low-bed truck.
TransNamib says it spends between N$3 million and N$5 million on rehabilitating a mere 1km of railway line, while the State has only been contributing N$1 million per annum for rehabilitation and maintenance of the railway line. "To put matters into perspective, note that for the period 2006 to 2012, TransNamib spent over N$220 million in maintenance. For this same period, the shareholder only contributed N$7 million. The amounts spent on maintenance costs thus understandably cut deep into the company's revenue, and put further strain on our operations," said Tjaronda.
However, a glance in the current development budget shows that the State Treasury has allocated, for this financial year alone, N$165 million for the rehabilitation of the Aus-Luderitz railway line and N$237.2 million for the procurement of new rails, and manufacturing and transportation of ballasts to use mainly in the rehabilitation of the railway line from Kranzberg to Otjiwarongo and Tsumeb, and between Windhoek and Walvis Bay. The budget document says that railway line "is regarded as the most important line because it links the port of Walvis Bay with the rest of the country. Strategic important commodities such as fuel and coal are transported over this line. Severe speed restrictions, of as low as 15 to 20 kilometres per hour have been imposed on some sections of the railway line."
TransNamib bemoans its extremely old fleet of rolling stock and equipment, which Tjaronda said are extremely costly to maintain, and negatively affects the company's operations as the performance of this outdated equipment is unsatisfactory and undependable, causing loss of both clients and revenue.