Swakop tracks cleared after accident

“We cannot put a price on the life that was lost. We are busy with assessing the cost in terms of the damage, which was extensive,” Raubenheimer said.

09 April 2021 | Transport

IRENE-MARI VAN DER WALT









SWAKOPMUND

The scene of the railway crash in Swakopmund has been cleared and the rail artery to and from the coast has been restored.

Four locomotives and 25 fuel and container wagons were involved in the accident on 16 March, causing extensive damage to the railway line.

Cranes were deployed and the salvage operation was completed by Sunday, 21 March, at considerable cost.

TransNamib corporate communications officer Abigail Raubenheimer confirmed that investigations are ongoing to determine the cause of the accident.

“There is not much to tell at the moment. It is quite an intensive and time-consuming process. Our engineering department restored the line after a couple of days and it is fully operational.”

Raubenheimer said that no final figure was yet available on the cost of the damage incurred.

‘Cannot put a price on life’

“We cannot put a price on the life that was lost. We are busy with assessing the cost in terms of the damage which was extensive to our rolling stock and infrastructure. The investigation will put a cost estimate to this.”

TransNamib CEO Johny Smith visited the scene shortly after the incident, which claimed the life of the assistant locomotive driver, Wilhelm Nongameni Joseph.

Smith described the derailment as amongst the worst in Namibian history and called for the replacement of the TransNamib locomotive fleet in an interview with Namib Times.

“We know that we have very old locomotives; we need to replace the entire fleet to provide a safe and reliable service to Namibian freight owners,” he said.

TransNamib's senior engineer Joe van Zyl in 2014 told The Namibian the average age of locomotives owned by TransNamib was 47 years, and that the coaches can be safely used for up to 60 years if well maintained.

Government bought six new locomotives to the tune of N$300 million for TransNamib from General Electric in 2017.

Back then, former acting chief executive officer of TransNamib, Mbahupu Hippy Tjivikua – who received the shipment – said that apart from the six new locomotives, TransNamib owned 97 - of which only 52 were operational, with some more than 50 years old.

Tjivikua indicated that TransNamib would need at least 80 new locomotives to replace the existing fleet, adding that it would be more costly to refurbish the old fleet than to acquire new trains.

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