LAYING TRACKS

Zambia 2014 | TRANSPORT | B2B: RAILWAYS

TBY talks to two industry heavyweights on establishing a successful operation and growing the country's economy.

Eng. Patrick Shangala
ENG. PATRICK SHANGALA
Regional General Manager Zambia
Tanzania Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA)
Prof. Muyenga Atanga
PROF. MUYENGA ATANGA
CEO
Zambia Railways Limited

How did your companies become established in Zambia, and what were some important milestones along the way?

PATRICK SHANGALA TAZARA was established in 1968, with the assistance of the Chinese government, while the governments of Tanzania and Zambia were looking for assistance in their construction projects. Zambia is a landlocked country, and during the liberation struggle in Zimbabwe the border was closed forcing Zambia to look for other routes for exports and imports. The Government of Zambia, under the leadership of President Dr. Kenneth Kaunda looked for a partner, and Tanzania was selected. It had to source a sponsor to undertake the construction, and hence approached China, and through Chinese assistance the surveying of the line was completed, with the construction from Dar es Salaam to Kapiri Mposhi taking five years to complete. The total length of the line is 1,860 kilometers.

PROF. MUYENGA ATANGA The sell-off of the Zambia Railways concession took place in 2003, as part of the privatization of Zambia's airport and railway network. The concession was for a period of 10 years, during which time the concession holder was unable to fill its obligations in terms of paying concession fees. In other words, there was no investment in the pipeline. The capacity of the line is for 5 million metric tons annually, and the design speed for the 848 kilometers of track from Kitwe to Livingstone is 80 km/h. But because of poor capitalization, the infrastructure deteriorated to the point whereby speeds dropped dramatically, and what that meant was that at the time of the handover in 2003, capacity was at close to 2 million metric tons of cargo, dropping to 600,000 metric tons by August 2012. The current situation is that we are realizing a rehabilitation program, which involves two major issues: rolling stock and infrastructure upgrades.

How do your operations contribute to Zambia's overall economic performance?

PS TAZARA is beneficial to the country, as Zambia is landlocked and most imports come through TAZARA. Our exports, such as copper and other minerals, go through the port of Dar es Salaam, as do our imports including fertilizers to support the agricultural industry, and sulfur and other products for the mining industry. Our projections are 380,000 metric tons of freight and a million passengers. Once we are recapitalized with the money and the goodwill of the two governments, we envisage that we can go up to 1.2 million metric tons, or three times current levels, by 2018, because the five-year strategic plan that we currently work to takes us through to 2018. The government aims to double copper production by then, and we are part of that strategy.

MA Our operations will seriously assist exports, because the improvements are numerous, but let us just start with a single one. Firstly, the government is going to benefit considerably. At the moment, because of the poor state of the tracks and the way the railway company was being managed, many companies stopped using the rail service as a means of transporting cargo, with cargo being transported via road. That affected our roads and has been detrimental overall. The lifespan of the road network has been reduced because of the heavy cargo being transported upon it. So when we rehabilitate the tracks, that will mean that we are now attracting those companies transporting heavy and bulk cargoes by road to come back to rail, and by doing that the pressure on the roads is reduced and their lifespan will increase. When we achieve that, the government will make huge savings that can be used in other socioeconomic areas, such as health and education. Also, the speed on the line will be improved, and that is what freight customers are looking for. They want their cargo to reach its destination in the shortest time possible, and they will be encouraged when we demonstrate that is now possible.