State Owned Enterprise (SOE) TransNamib have climbed down on their demands of the past to have Government relinquish control of the country’s railway network to them, saying the move will not be financially viable for the parastatal.
Speaking to The Villager this week, TransNamib Chief Executive Officer, Hippy Tjivikua, said: “I do not want government to relinquish all railway infrastructure to TransNamib because the railway infrastructure is in a bad shape and, rehabilitation and upgrade of them will be very high.”
In the past the railways operator had been agitating to have control of the railway network to use it as a bargaining chip when they engage potential funders for their projects.
In 2014, the TransNamib Board wanted the Government to relinquish ownership of the railway infrastructure and hand it over to TransNamib in a bid to increase the parastatals’ revenues.
The Villager previously reported that it costs TransNamib between N$3.5 million and N$5 million to lay a kilometre of rail, however this figure varies annually.
Speaking to The Villager Chief Corporate Communications officer at the Ministry of Works and Transport, Julius Ngweda, said that Government would have never given TransNamib the mandate to take charge of everything railway as the Act No.28 of 1998, which established TransNamib, states that the parastatal is only the operator and the government is responsible for the railway mainlines or infrastructure.
Namibia’s inherited railway infrastructure remain in a depilated state for the last 26 years since independence and currently only 49% of it meets standards set by the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Annually, railway infrastructure receives a budget allocation over N$500 million, with not much happening there. For the current financial year, the Ministry of Works and Transport has set aside an estimated N$690 million for the rehabilitation of railway infrastructure. The Ministry has also targeted to upgrade 100km railway network for the 2016/17 financial year. Dwindling traffic and deteriorating infrastructure resulted in less investment into the SADC rail systems, resulting in unsustainable rail networks while efforts to increase traffic volumes have been thwarted by poor track conditions and low operating capital.
“The current government inherited railway lines in a terrible state of repair and far below the SADC standard of 18.5 tonnes per axle and 100 kilometres per hour speeds. Government has plans to upgrade the whole railway network to meet the SADC railway standards as the government has already built new lines from Tsumeb to Ondangwa and is currently doing the Ondangwa to Oshakati railway line,” Ngweda said.
Ngweda added that the government plans include the upgrade of about 600 kilometres of Walvis Bay to Tsumeb by 2020. Also under consideration is the construction of commuter rail services to Katutura, Rehoboth, Hosea Kutako International Airport and Okahandja.
Budget documents show that the main challenges in the provision and upgrading of the railway network are caused by delays in tender awarding and procurement of materials. The railway programme, aims to construct new railway lines, maintain, upgrade and rehabilitate depreciated railway line networks to ensure that the railway line services are accessible and handle increased volumes of cargo. The railway lines forms part of the various development corridors that connect the SADC Protocol on Transport, Communication and Meteorology.