Maputo — The rehabilitation of critical stretches of the Sena railway line, linking the Moatize coal basin to the port of Beira, has been concluded, according to a report in Thursday's issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”.
The publicly owned ports and rail company, CFM, undertook the work to ensure there would be no repetition this rainy season of what happened in February 2013, when flooding on the Zambezi river washed away ballast on part of the Sena line, interrupting rail traffic.
This was a serious blow to the coal mining companies Vale and Rio Tinto, who accounted for most of the cargo on the 12 trains a day then using the line. Coal exports were interrupted for three weeks.
CFM is determined that the same thing should not happen this year. At three points along the most vulnerable stretch of the Sena line, new drainage pipes have been installed to ensure that storm waters are channelled away from the tracks.
The base on which the rails rest has been strengthened, and all the ditches running alongside the line have been cleaned.
CFM says it has placed teams on the ground permanently monitoring the line, particularly the stretch from the Zambezi to Moatize.
Sancho Junior, director of the Sena Line Reconstruction Brigade, told the paper that heavy equipment is available to open more drainage ditches, and will be operating in the critical area until late February.
Meanwhile, work is under way to increase the capacity of the Sena line from the current 6.5 million tonnes a year to 20 million tonnes a year by February 2015. The work is intended to raise the maximum length of goods trains from 42 wagons pulled by two locomotives to 100 wagons pulled by six locomotives.
The contract for these improvements was won by the Portuguese companies Mota Engil and the Visabeira group, which plan to spend 162.7 million euros (about 223 million US dollars) on the improvements.
But plans to raise coal exports to 100 million tonnes a year mean that alternatives to the Sena Line are required. Vale hopes to free itself from dependence on the Sena line by building a new railway across southern Malawi that will connect with Mozambique's existing northern line, and carry the coal to the port of Nacala.
A second new line will be built from Moatize to Macuse on the coast of Zambezi province where a new mineral port will be installed.