Grand commuter train plan on the cards

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Kuzeeko Tjitemisa

Windhoek-In its effort to reduce the burden on the road infrastructure while providing a cheaper and affordable means of transport, the Ministry of Works and Transport has submitted massive transportation project concept notes for consideration.

The project, which seeks Treasury support, is to be executed via a public–private-partnership (PPP) venture.
This was announced by Minister of Works and Transport John Mutorwa on Friday, while motivating his ministry’s
2018/19 budget of N$3.5 billion in parliament. Mutorwa said the concepts submitted to the PPP unit and finance ministry include commuter train services between Windhoek Central and Katutura and other suburbs – and the improvement of the existing rail infrastructure between Windhoek and Rehoboth. According to him, the improved rail infrastructure between Windhoek and Rehoboth will enable faster travelling times between the two economic centres while the estimated capital cost of the Windhoek Central to Katutura commuter train services is N$2.8 billion. He said the operational costs are estimated to be at N$128 million, which include a N$93 million subsidy.

Mutorwa said the amount provides for staff, operating maintenance and corporate, fuel consumed by locomotives, rolling stock maintenance and route maintenance. Furthermore, the minister said the notes include the Cape Fria-Katima Mulilo railway line and the Trans-Kalahari railway line.

He said the Cape Fria-Katima Mulilo railway line aims at connecting the Namibian railway network system with that of neighbouring Zambia while the Trans-Kalahari railway line aims to transport coal to a port along the Namibian coast. The aim is to connect the Namibian railway network system with that of Zambia. He said the feasibility study on the Cape Fria-Katima Mulilo railway line extension was completed in 2010.

“The absence of railway line transportation services to all major economic centres necessitated the ministry to continue planning the expansion of the railway network countrywide,” he stresses.

Furthermore, Mutorwa told lawmakers that the ministry started with the construction of phase III of the northern railway line extension project (from Ondangwa to Oshakati).

He said the earthworks embankment of Section I and Section II, as well as the road-over-rail bridges, are now completed.

Mutorwa said the ministry now plans to start with the construction of the Oshakati station buildings and platforms once the bids are called and contract is awarded.

“Other project components such as the procurement of rails for this section and the construction of the permanent way will follow during the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF).”
Meanwhile, earlier this year, a weekly quoted the Minister of Public Enterprises, Leon Jooste, saying that the proposed Windhoek-Hosea Kutako International Airport, Windhoek-Okahandja and Windhoek-Rehoboth commuter trains will not be viable projects for government to undertake.

“It is a good idea, but our research has shown that it won’t be commercially viable for some time,” the newspaper quoted Jooste saying during the Economic Association of Namibia meeting in Windhoek.

According to the weekly, Jooste said ‘political projects’ such as the commuter trains should not be pushed onto state-owned enterprises, such as TransNamib, to carry the financial burden of implementing them when there is no budget to do so.

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