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New, improved passenger train sets off

TUMELO MOUWANE
LOBATSE: President Ian Khama yesterday officially launched Botswana Railwaysĺ passenger train in Lobatse, marking the popular serviceĺs return after an eight-year absence.

The train, which was unveiled under the new brand name, ‘BR Express’, was manufactured in South Africa by that country’s national rail utility, Transnet.

The BR Express boasts state of the art features including air conditioning, business boardrooms, TV sets, Wifi and luxurious sleeper room.  It has been classified into three categories being the standard passenger seater, business seater and buffet car.

BR Express made its debut run yesterday leaving Lobatse at 1210hrs headed for Gaborone.

At the launch Khama said the train’s absence in the public transport sector was mainly due to the poor condition of coaches.

Transnet was contracted to manufacture 37 coaches and has thus far delivered 22.

The President said the reintroduction of the passenger rail service will be an economic enabler, which will also create economic opportunities for Batswana.

“One of the major reasons we reintroduced the service was high public demand.  The train will be

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an economic enabler and will facilitate economic opportunities. Employment opportunities  around catering, security and sanitation services have been created, which Botswana Railways has outsourced,” he said.

According to Khama, the coaches will operate between Lobatse and Francistown. The BR Express train will operate on night trips and day trips will only be offered over holidays to ease the traditionally high public transport demand.

The BR Express will make trips from Lobatse to Francistown with stoppages in Gaborone, Mahalapye, Palapye and Serule before reaching Francistown.

Khama said the reintroduction of the passenger rail service was timely as the country prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

For his part, Transport and Communications minister, Tshenolo Mabeo said the train will significantly impact the economy.

“I am overwhelmed by the reinstatement of the passenger train.

It will impact the economy significantly with its commitment to transforming the public transport scene,” he said.



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