Mmegi Blogs :: Transportation - The Good And The Very Disturbing
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Friday 16 November 2018, 11:44 am.
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Transportation - The Good And The Very Disturbing

Itís always one thing to read about the construction or upgrading of a road and something else to see it first-hand. The widening of the Gaborone-Boatle road should have been done 20 or more years ago.
By Sandy Grant Mon 26 Feb 2018, 16:54 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: Transportation - The Good And The Very Disturbing








But to see it now is to be impressed and to realise, for the first time that a new junction at Boatle will soon sensibly replace the present one.

But then, what a wonderful surprise to see the adverts about the exciting new main road junction at Lobatse, planned or now on the ground, which will provide the new link for the four key roads, to Gaborone, Namibia, South Africa and Lobatse itself.

The new junction is bound to breath fresh air into the place and help to invigorate it. And then, dear oh dear, there has now re-emerged that whacky story about the railway track over the monumental Kazangula bridge which goes nowhere and comes from nowhere. I have no problems with the implantment of a rail track over the bridge. That seems to me to be forward looking and sensible.

But I continue to be disconcerted by the inability or unwillingness of anyone involved, Botswana Railways (BR) or Ministry, to explain exactly what is proposed. Is it possible that this stunning silence derives not from the usual inability to communicate but from a lack of clue as to what is supposed to happen next, and indeed why? The Telegraph (February 21) reported that the government of Zambia has decided that 30% of its freight must now be shifted from road to rail – because the ever-increasing volume of traffic is ruining its roads. 

The visiting CEO of Botswana Railways to Zambia was quoted as welcoming this decision hoping that “it will be able to assist since there is already a railway route from Bulawayo to Francistown”.

It would be helpful if we were told what form this assistance might take? But of what benefit to Zambia might be an alternative route to Francistown when the now re-opened Bulawayo- Francistown route is already available to it? A difference of costs, perhaps, and a choice of routes but both going to the same place?

But let’s leave that problem for the moment because the CEO was further quoted as saying that ‘his organisation is enjoying good support from the government to develop a railway line that will join the Kazangula bridge.

He said that his “organisation is moving fast in that direction and already doing the final studies and designs”, adding that “the constructions are expected to commence within one year”. If correctly reported, this is an astonishing, worrying statement.

It would appear that when BR completes its designs, construction immediately starts.

There is

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no evaluation of those designs and no costing – everything being seemingly covered by that ‘good support from government’.

There is no suggestion that BR’s plans need to pass through any form of government appraisal and budget approval. Apparently, it can by-pass these normal requirements because already having the cash, and with an EIA completed and all compensation issues resolved, it can immediately invite tenders and let work start. This is mind blowing. It is unclear to me why the Zambian government would now be happy to use its Livingstone-Bulawayo-Francistown route because it seems to have managed quite well in the many years that the last leg of this route was inoperative.

On the other hand, the changing situation in Zimbabwe may bring the Bulawayo route back to life. But why does Zambia now welcome the chance to shift its freight to Cape Town – the line of rail taking it there rather than anyway else? But then, if a Francistown-Cape Town route would seem to offer few obvious benefits to Zambia what benefits might it offer for this country?

The obvious linkage must be for this country, somewhere, to connect with Johannesburg and Durban rather than to Cape Town.  In other words, our railway line goes to the wrong place and whilst BR, and thus, the government, is already able to commit millions to the construction of a new Kazangula rail line to, presumably Francistown, it is unwilling or unable to explain how the vast expenditure on this new line will in any way reduce the volume of road freight from the Johannesburg/Pretoria complex to Kazangula.

But then BR may be having different plans and is aiming to link up, somewhere with the Livingstone- Bulawayo link. That would make sense although I am not sure if it is either geographically or politically feasible? But there are so many other problems.

Of what use will advanced plans and imminent construction on this side of the bridge be if there are no complementary plans on the other? And then again what benefit derives from having two more or less parallel rain lines?

What is the justification for spending an enormous amount on a new line when one already exists? What is urgently needed is a comprehensive SADC Plan for the development and upgrading of rail and rail links in the whole of Southern Africa and avoidance of a country by country approach.  That too, should have happened years ago.

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