By Jeff Kapembwa
Zambia and Botswana have signed a US$259 million agreement to construct a 430-kilometre long railway to link the two countries across the Kazungula Bridge to bolster bilateral trade.
Faced with trade imbalances, the two Southern African countries have agreed in principle to construct the railway line and have it completed soon after the year bridge is completed and commissioned.
This projection, it is envisaged, will reduce transit time and transportation costs for both the people and goods traded. It will further boost trade among other member states in the region.
A statement seen by The Southern Times, shows that Zambia Railways Ltd and Botswana Railways’ boards resolved during a meeting held on Monday in Kasane to facilitate the construction of the lengthy line and a show of cooperation.
The railway project dubbed, “Mosetse-Kazungula-Livingstone”, will across the bridge once completed and will be commissioned by June next year.
The actual cost of the project will be determined after undertaking a feasibility study.
According to Zambia Railways board chairperson Lubinda Linyama, the project was proven feasible and as a quicker means of transporting goods and passengers in addition to roads to ease transportation problems and once completed will benefit all other countries in the 16-country-member region and bolster trade in real time.
“The railway line will reduce transit time and transportation costs for both the people and goods and it will also help increase trade in the Southern African Development Community (SADC),” Linyama stated.
The railway construction programme is at its infancy awaiting the completion of the more than 900-metre-long US$259 million Kazungula bridge after technocrats from both countries and other financiers have finalised the legal framework expected to be received in due course.
“Zambia is up to date with its financial obligations for the construction of the Kazungula bridge,” he said of the project which will be co-financed by both countries to accelerate its completion.
Linyama allayed fears that the bridge would not be complete in due course following rescheduling of the completion timetable but assured that the two countries were determined to ensure the project was completed as planned despite challenges faced in recent months.
“We are determined to undertake this (railway line) project despite the challenges that may arise.”
His counterpart, Adolf Hechfeld, was optimistic that the two countries will work expeditiously to complete the project using the Kenya-model of building an elevated railway line through the national park.
The railway line in Kenya, traversing through the national park, is built like a bridge. This is to ensure the animal corridors remain porous; a concept that allows free management of animals while preventing accidents in the national parks.