Zambia Railways: India’s help timely
Published On October 2, 2023 » 856 Views» By Times Reporter » Opinion
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IT is an undeniable fact that railway transport continues to play a critical role in the economic development of any country, Zambia included, through the movement of goods and passengers.
With its natural advantage of being a bulk carrier, safer and cheaper, rail transport remains an important component in intermodal transportation of any country and in this case, Zambia.
 
Rail transport is environmentally friendly and has less congestion and has a better fuel efficiency than other modes of transport.
Therefore a poorly utilised railway system adversely affects the transport system this leads to decreased contribution to the country’s economy.
However, rail transport has not fully utilised as many opt for road transport as this could be attributed to inter alia, bad rail infrastructure and equipment and to some extent the unfavourable government policies, poor management of the railways.
Additionally, rail transport is considered to be very low and has limited routes and this has been attributed to be among the major reasons for the under performance of the railways in Zambia.
This has resulted in the rail sector fairing badly compared to the road transport and this has now resulted in high cost of road maintenance, road carnage and environmental degradation.
  
It is therefore encouraging to hear the Rail India Technical and Economic Service (RITES) pledged to help Zambia rehabilitate the more than 1,000 kilometre railway line stretch from Livingstone to Chililabombwe.
This will undoubtedly help boost Zambia railway transport system and in the process promote social and economic transformation.
And all this confidence to help renovate the railway sector is because of the great attachment the government has towards ensuring that this sector benefits as well because a vibrant railway sector will in turn create the needed employment.
The project surely looks to be a success as RITES has experience of working in 55 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, with more than 2700 professional experts in the field of engineering, finance and management.
It will be important that rail routes are linked  to important exit points to facilitate smooth access to the outside but also for the overall boosting of trade in the sub-region and making Zambia a competitive country for business.
The announcement by RITES should spur into life the Zambian railway transport that has operated below its original design capacity but with this significant investment underway, we should see an increase in volumes by investing in track conditions, increasing locomotive and wagon availability and increasing operating capital.
There is need to make the rail network system the dominant mode of transportation for goods on the local and international routes and help decongest and save the lifespan of the roads.
Government is spending colossal sums of money to repair and maintain roads yearly but this can be reduced if most heavy loads are restricted to railway transportation.
Rail transport can also greatly be the alternative in view of the restriction on night movements for Public Service Vehicles to curb road carnage.
It will be important for Zambian’s to support such investment towards the railway transport because revamping this sector is not a matter of option but necessity given its importance to economic growth.

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