Maputo — The Limpopo railway line from Zimbabwe to the port of Maputo is seriously underused because Zimbabwean exporters are just not sending enough traffic down the line, according to the chairperson of Mozambique's port and rail company (CFM), Miguel Matabel, cited by the independent television station STV.
The Zimbabwean inefficiency, Matabel said, meant that the Limpopo Line cannot meet its target of carrying a million tonnes of cargo this year.
"Our locomotives often arrive at Chicualacuala (on the Mozambique/Zimbabwe border), and there's not enough cargo to take back", explained Matabel. "Our locomotives can pull 40 to 45 wagons at once, but often when we reach Chicualacuala, they only have 20 or 30 wagons there".
Some of these problems are because Zimbabwe does not have enough functioning locomotives. CFM has thus proposed that its own locomotives should cross the border to pick up cargo on the Zimbabwean side, instead of waiting on the Mozambican side. Matebel said CFM has not yet received a satisfactory response to this suggestion.
"We are trying to negotiate with them to see if we go into their side of the line, because they are always having breakdowns with their locomotives, and this has caused headaches on our side", said Matabel. "We are continuing to negotiate, but they still think they can solve the problem themselves.
The 522 kilometre long Limpopo line was rebuilt in 2004 after the damage caused by the floods in 2000 in the Limpopo and Incomati valleys in 2000. But it has subsequently operated well below capacity, because of the poor demand from Zimbabwe and other neighbouring countries. Matabel believed the line can move two million tonnes of cargo a year, with trains moving at speeds of up to 50 kilometres an hour.
As for the 88 kilometre Ressano Garcia lie from Maputo to South Africa, Matabel said the main battle waged by CFM is to persuade South African companies, particularly exporters of ferro-chrome, to send their goods to Maputo by rail rather than road.
Currently 200 trucks a day carry cargo by road from South Africa to Maputo port which could all go by rail.