Lusaka – Angola, the DRC and Zambia are advancing a plan to connect the three states with a passenger and cargo rail link.
North Western Rail Limited, who are fronting the project, have partnered two United Kingdom-based companies – Uroven Ltd and Smart Operations - to develop the 2,000km rail line, whose first phase will entail construction of a link between Chingola and Solwezi in Zambia.
A feasibility study and route mapping, which will include a land survey and land rights issues, should be completed in the first quarter of 2021.
The US$1,2 billion will run from the mining town of Chingola in northern Zambia, through the DRC, and on to Benguela in Angola.
Phase 1A involves construction of 166km of rail from Chingola to the new Solwezi freight terminal. The next phase will see the line extended to Kipushi on the DRC border, creating a new export corridor for Katanga miners. Thereafter, the link to Angola will be constructed in phases.
In a statement, North Western Railway chairman Mr Enoch Kavindele said, “The new rail corridor will provide miners and others with a reliable railway solution. Our project is fully aligned with the Zambian government initiative to move over 30 percent of heavy freight in the country by rail, thereby reducing the amount of heavy freight on public roads.”
Two years ago, the Zambian government gazetted a statutory instrument that funnels heavy cargo away from roads and to rail.
Smart Operations representative Mr Peter Cedervall this week said of the partnership with North Western Rail, “We are a preferred optimisation partner to railway operators, bringing new technologies and assets that provide reliable and efficient operations.”
The project, despite being implemented now, is not new.
Back in 1929, Sir Robert Williams tried to establish a western corridor to Central Africa, and project developers are trying to revive that dream that will connect the heart of the continent to the Atlantic Port of Lobito in Angola.
The prizes for Western corporations – much as they were in Sir Robert’s time - are the rich mineral assets in Angola, DRC and Zambia.