Transport Minister assures road transporters that rail system shall bring more growth to their industry

Hara (1st left) being briefed by the officials

* There is a growing resentment by road transporters who fear that the rail system might jeopardize their industry

* Since trains are able to transport more goods on their wagons

* Thus businesses shall prefer the rail than road transportation

By Martin Chiwanda, MANA & Duncan Mlanjira, Maravi Express

If well promoted, rail transport system is set to translate into bringing more growth to road transportation as more goods will be brought in the country that will require more trucks to ferry goods to designated areas across the country.

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This was said by Minister of Transport and Public Works, Jacob Hara last week when he visited Liwonde Dry Port in Machinga — which is the first port of call for goods that is transported from Nacala in Mozambique through the rail system.

This route was rehabilitated by Vale Logistics which is used to transport coal from Moatize in Mozambique passing through Malawi.

Vale specifically built a new railway line from Moatize up to Nkaya in Balaka where it connected the rail that reaches out to the border and goes further to Nacala Port, which Vale rehabilitated from Nkaya passing through the Liwonde Dry Port.

The rail from Moatize to Nacala passing through Nkaya

Minister Hara thus said the rail system is also going to benefit the road transport as it is cheaper since it is set to reduce exportation costs making the country’s products cheap and competitive at international market.

This in turn will also benefit farmers as they shall grow more crops in order to realize more from their produce.

However, there is a growing resentment by road transporters who fear that the rail system might jeopardize their industry since trains are able to transport more goods on their wagons — thus businesses shall prefer the rail than road transportation.

The Minister thus made the assurance to the road transporters that they shall not be challenged, saying “this is an opportunity for the road transport providers since more goods will be transported into the country which will translate into more trucks getting businesses”.

Hara (2nd left)

“Therefore, rail transport will create more opportunities to road transport providers,” Hara said, adding that now is the right time to fully utilize rail transport as the country is shifting paradigm to becoming a predominant producing state so as to achieve the agenda 2063.

“Right now we are encouraging more Malawians to produce and export goods to the world markets.”

Machinga District Commissioner, Rosemary Nawasha said the reopening of Liwonde Dry Port — which is managed by Nacala Logistics — is an infrastructure development that has changed the face of Machinga.

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“It is true that with rail infrastructure, the lives of people in the country can change for the better,” Nawasha said. “Through the rail infrastructure, locals in Machinga District have acquired employment and are also enjoying cheap transportation.”

In July last year, President Lazarus Chakwera commissioned a new railway bridge at Shire North that connects Nacala to Nkaya and proceeds to Limbe, Blantyre District.

In the past, goods from Nacala proceeded from Nkaya to Salima, Lilongwe and all the way to Mchinji where Zambian transporters took over for their country’s goods.

This rail corridor was important for the transportation of fuel from Nacala to various parts of the country as trains can carry over 50 wagon tankers per trip while road tankers are single carriers.

Passenger train arriving in Nkaya from Limbe

When Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA) adjusts fuel prices, it applies the Automatic Pricing Mechanism as according to in-bond landed cost (IBLC).

The IBLC is the weighted average of costs for each route the fuel is transported which is set at 50% through Beira; 30% through Dar-es-Salaam and 20% for Nacala.

If the fuel transportation was to be used through rail (Beira and Nacala) as was done during President Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda’s Malawi Congress Party (MCP)-led government, pump prices could have been lower.

At Shire North in July last year, Chakwera pledged that his administration would continue the phased rehabilitation and upgrading of the 201km Marka-Limbe railway line that connects to the Mozambican border.

The new Shire North Bridge inaugurated by President Chakwera

This rail line is also economically important for Malawi for dry goods and fuel importation from Beira in Mozambique, which was viable in the past.

The rehabilitation starts from the border Marka up to Nsanje to Limbe and thereafter from Nkaya-Salima; Salima-Lilongwe and Lilongwe-Mchinji, which has been made possible through a concession agreement with CEAR.

Chakwera had said the rail projects underway are only the beginning — the goal is to have a railway system that is truly national.

The rail connection between Malawi and Mozambique was interrupted in the 1980s at the height of Mozambique’s civil war that destabilised the country.

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At Shire North, Chakwera reminded Malawians that the first commissioning of a train in Malawi was in 1908 during the Colonial days that operated between Limbe and Chiromo and after gaining Independence, the railway network was extended from Blantyre to Lilongwe, then to Mchinji.

But, Chakwera said, the new generation of leaders that emerged after Kamuzu abandoned rail altogether — “who failed to appreciate the ingenuity and pragmatism of a robust railway system”.

“When that new crop of leaders looked at the railway system Kamuzu had been developing, all they saw was system they could loot. They looted Malawi Railways Limited until it died. They looted the Railway Training Center until it died.

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“As a result, we are now a country heavily dependent on more expensive modes of transporting goods into and across our country. This, in turn, has left Malawians in the unenviable position of paying three or four times more than neighboring countries for the same imported goods.”

Chakwera told Malawians that it is estimated that about 40% of Cost-Freight and Insurance (CIF) on all imported or exported goods is transport cost.

“How we, as a landlocked country, have accepted this status quo for 27 years makes no sense to me. As I see it, no person who lends a hand to the death of rail in Malawi can claim to love this country.

“By contrast, every person who claims to love Malawi ought to be an advocate of the resurrection of rail in this country,” implored the President.

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