SA's Transnet hijacks Trans-Kalahari rail

10 May 2019 | Transport

Transnet, South Africa's state rail corporation, has reconvened talks with its counterpart, Botswana Rail, to build a railway line to link the two countries.

The move could jeopardise a similar plan by TransNamib.

According to Fin24, the deal seeks to unlock the potential of Botswana's coal reserves, estimated at 212 billion tons.

Transnet said railway expansion programmes linked to the construction of the Botswana rail network were at the execution stage.

“This particular programme, which is in the construction phase, is a step towards unlocking both Waterberg and Botswana coal. The Botswana coal reserves are estimated at 212 billion tons,” Transnet said.

“Other projects in support of this programme include the upgrade of the electrical infrastructure on the coal heavy-haul system and the construction of a second tunnel at Overvaal in Mpumalanga, among others,” it added.

Despite this development, Trans- Namib is still adamant that it is in the driving seat to implement its railway project together with Botswana Rail.

TransNamib executive Hippy Tjivikua says both companies are committed to finalising the project.

“TransNamib and Botswana Rail remain committed to the partnership and the memorandum of understanding (MoU). We are working on the modalities on how to operationalise the MoU,” he said.

The governments of Namibia and Botswana signed an agreement in March 2014 to start the joint venture, which was to see the successful construction of the Trans-Kalahari railway at a cost of N$100 billion.

The 1 500-kilometre railway was expected be completed in five years and would initially depend on exporting 90 million tonnes of coal each year from Botswana to India and China.