Jeff Kapembwa in Lusaka –Northwest Rail Company Ltd, which is piecing together a rail link between Angola, the DRC and Zambia, says it has secured more than US$$1 billion for the infrastructure venture.
The funds, the firm said last week, had been secured through its Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed partner, Grindrod Ltd. Northwest Rail and Grindrod signed a US$1 billion contract to build the 580km rail line.
Zambian media last week quoted North Western Railway chief executive Enoch Kavindele saying the rail link would start in Chingola in northwestern Zambia - where three major mines are located – and run to the Jimbe on the border with Angola.
Thereafter, the line will snake to the DRC, creating a link for miners there to move their product to Chingola and on to Indian Ocean ports.
Grindrod and Northwest Rail have exclusive rights to build, operate and maintain the new railway line, thus re-opening the Western Corridor into Central Africa that was first established in 1929 by Sir Robert Williams.
Over 2, 00km of lines will be laid to link the Atlantic port of Lobito to the DRC and Zambia.
Kavindele of Northwest Rail could not give a time frame for when construction was expected to start and end.
Available information shows the plan is to have the first 290km phase of the line from Chingola to the Kansanshi, Lumwana and Kalumbila mines, at an estimated capital cost of about US$489 million.
The second phase, which will cost an estimated US$500 million, will link to the Benguela Railway line on the Zambia-Angola border near Jimbe and will open a direct corridor to Lobito. This will allow landlocked Zambia to import oil directly from Angola, and could stimulate greater mining activities in the northwestern and Copperbelt regions.
The project has been on the cards for the past four years, and recently gained traction when the Government of Zambia acquired a 30% stake in it to ensure its viability.