Editor's Comment

There’s still hope for rail sector

THAT Zambia Railways Limited (ZRL) posted an increase of almost 70,000 metric tonnes of cargo transported by rail in 2017 is an indication that all hope is not lost for a company that has been on its knees for a long time.According to ZRL, in 2017, 702,603 metric tonnes of heavy and bulky goods were transported by rail from 632,920 in 2016 due to the rise in the use of the rail line for imported goods according to a latest report released by the company recently.
“The increase was largely due to the rise in the use of rail line for imports of heavy and bulky cargo,” the report reads in part.
It is also encouraging to note that during the period under review, the number of passengers transported by rail in 2017 equally increased to 255,727 from 243,436 in 2016.
This is attributed to the rise in intercity passenger numbers travelling for education and church tours.
While the increase in cargo haulage and passengers using the rail line may seem marginal in the eyes of many, it is certainly an indication that the rail system is headed in the right direction.
It is particularly encouraging that this sleeping giant is exhibiting signs of reawakening.
It is good to note that the massive investment Government has been injecting into the rail company is beginning to bear fruit.
It is a known fact that the rail sector, if well harnessed, has potential to significantly contribute to economic development.
Rail transportation also offers a cheaper and more reliable alternative to other modes of transport like road, water and air.
A viable rail transport sector is needed to also offset pressure on roads, which tend to easily wear down when exposed to heavy cargo transportation.
This has been the major cause of road infrastructure deterioration in our country.
The bad state of the rail transport system has left many transporters with no option but to depend on road transportation for both heavy and light cargo.
It is, however, encouraging that transporters and passengers are beginning to regain confidence in the once vibrant sector.
This is also reflected in Tanzania-Zambia Railways, which has also recorded 16.7 increase in passengers and 14.8 percent in cargo haulage.
Government should also be commended for implementing an SI to compel transporters to use rail transports for all heavy cargo.
This will certainly help increase the volumes of cargo transported by rail thereby boosting the sector.
However, ZRL should be reminded that while there is some progress, the task before them to revamp the rail system is still huge.
Rail transportation in Zambia still remains inefficient due to poor state of rail infrastructure such as tracks.
For safety reasons, trains move at a very slow pace.
We, therefore, urge Zambia Railways Limited management to expedite rehabilitation of tracks to make rail transportation attractive.
ZRL should not expect people to seek its services out of sympathy.
ZRL should provide value for money to passengers and transporters.
Therefore, there is need for continued investment into the company’s operations to bring it to a level where it can effectively compete on the market and sustain itself.
Given the increase in trade and movement of people, rail transport still remains potentially viable.
Zambia Railways Limited is one of the beneficiaries of the Eurobonds, which is why the company is expected to operate efficiently.

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