Zimbabwe: Railway Lines Underused

28 August 2018

Maputo — The Limpopo railway line from Zimbabwe to the port of Maputo is seriously underused as Zimbabwean exporters are not sending enough traffic down the line, a Mozambican port official has said.

Mozambique port and rail company (CFM) chairperson Miguel Matabel said the Zimbabwean inefficiency meant that the Limpopo line could not meet its target to carry a million tons of cargo this year.

"Our locomotives often arrive at Chicualacuala (on the Mozambique/Zimbabwe border), and there is not enough cargo to take back," he said.

"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 challenges 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 had 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," he said.

"We are continuing to negotiate, but they still think they can solve the problem themselves."

The 522km long Limpopo line was rebuilt in 2004 after the damage caused by the floods in 2000 in the Limpopo and Incomati valleys.

But it has subsequently operated well below capacity, because of the poor demand from Zimbabwe and other neighbouring countries.

Matabel said the line had capacity to move two million tons of cargo a year, with trains moving at speeds of up to 50 kilometres an hour.

As for the 88 kilometre Ressano Garcia line from Maputo to South Africa, Matabel said the main battle waged by CFM was to persuade South African companies, particularly exporters of ferro-chrome, to send their goods to Maputo by rail rather than road.

At present, 200 trucks carry cargo by road from South Africa to Maputo port every day, which could all go by rail.

The Zimbabwean government has been encouraging transporters to use rail instead of road to ferry goods from Mozambique, particularly petroleum products, including offering incentives like reducing the Feruka pipeline fees as well as introducing levies for using road.

This is meant to reduce damage that tankers cause on the country's roads.

- New Ziana.

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