Windhoek - The Southern African Railway Association (SARA) is targeting a US$360 million railway rehabilitation project to inter-connect the region with plans for a working strategic plan by 2021.
SARA said here this week that quick fix solutions needed each member state in the region to have approximately US$20m to rehabilitate its railway infrastructure. It also emphasised the need for railway networks to be the priority mode of transport which is efficient and will also take away pressure on the road network.
Addressing delegates at a meeting of the SARA board members from the SADC region, Namibian Minister of Works and Transport, John Mutorwa, and Minister of State Owned Enterprises, Leon Jooste, underscored the need for a managed railway network in the region to drive trade and regional integration.
Mutorwa said member countries were putting together strategic plans for their railway companies which communicate to the regional benchmark of integration and in turn relates to Agenda 2063 of the African Union for a more close business relation among African countries.
“As we call for efficient railway services, it is important that we also realise the current conditions of our railways and challenges that we are facing in this sector. First and foremost, the railway industry in the SADC region suffers from huge backlog in maintenance and rehabilitation of infrastructure and rolling stock, which require significant capital investments,” Mutorwa said.
Jooste called for close cooperation between SADC member states in making sure that the region has state-of-the-art railways that respond to the needs of growing economies and hastening integration.
He bemoaned the lack of regular coordination between member states to the achievement of the goal of a better railway transport system. “The biggest challenge we have always faced in the past is a lack of coordination between the stakeholders in the railway industry. I am happy that with SARA we are making progress towards that,” he said.
Despite efforts by the political leadership of the region to push for a better railway network in SADC, the member countries were still grappling with poor performing state-owned railway companies.
Johnny Smith, chief executive officer of Namibia’s railways company, TransNamib, also concurred with the two ministers, adding that his company had also started implementing its strategic plan with the aim of pushing through the regional integration agenda through reliable transportation.
The board members of SARA are drawn from SADC member states railway companies as well as stakeholders associated with the railway system in the region.