Government says it has created a Railway Development Agency ( RDA) to facilitate the separation of railway infrastructure and maintenance from railway operations.
Minister of Transport and Communications Brian Mushimba says this is aimed at allowing Zambia Railways Limited ( ZRL ) to focus on running its business operations competitively and in a sustainable manner being bogged down into costly maintenance of the permanent way.
Mr. Mushimba says this part of government’s reforms of the railway transport including the introduction of the quota system for bulk cargo which he said will compel bulk transporter of various categories of cargo to transport a minimum of 30 percent of cargo by railway.
He added that government has also under the reforms come up with promotion of Public Private partnership between the Zambia Railways Limited and other Railway operators in the SADC region such as Trans-net.
Mr. Mushimba said the initiative was also aimed at promoting private Railway Operators to ply on the ZRL permanent way at an access fee.
” These reforms are aimed at transforming the ZRL into a viable competitive, reliable and safe railway operator, ” he said.
The Minister said this at the inauguration session of the new board of Directors of Zambia Railways Limited ( ZRL ) held at the railway firm’s corporate office in Lusaka, this morning.
Mr. Mushimba said as principal body responsible for corporate governance of the ZRL, he will expect the new board to represent the government and stakeholders interest in the transformation process of the railway firm.
He also noted that following the nullification of the concession with the Railway System of Zambia ( RSZ) five years ago in 2012, government has seen an eighteen percent growth in the traffic of the ZRL.
Mr. Mushimba said this was as a result of government’s strategic focus of the railway sector which he said was bearing fruit adding that arising from recapitalization efforts by the railway company, the operation network has also grown by 44 percent after the commencement of operation on the Nacala Corridor and the revival of its operation in the inter-mine region on the Copperbelt province.
He also noted that in the section where full track rehabilitation has been undertaken by the ZRL, freight trains are now able to run at an average speed of 50 kilometers per hour.
” There is however a lot more ground to be covered especially in relation to the transformation of the Zambia Railways. The major task is the implementation of a full rehabilitation and upgrade of the railway infrastructure to reach our ( government’s ) desired speed of 80 kilometers per hour for freight trains and , 120 kilometers per hour for passenger trains, ” he said.
Mr. Mushimba said to achieve this, there was need to come up with result based performance management contract with the new ZRL Board for the purposes measuring the contribution of the Board of Directors towards the attainment of the company’s strategic goals and objectives.
The new board is led by Lawyer Mr. Linyama Lubinda, Dr Getrude Akapelwa, Dr Evans Chabala, Mr Robert Mutonga, Mr. Nicholas Chinkwenya and a Mr C. Musonda.
And Mr. Lubinda later said his Board will work hard to ensure that the national railway company operates and delivers to the expectations of government and the people of Zambia.
He said his board would ensure that ZRL management and staff operate in set standards adding that their performance would be reviewed as regularly as possible to ensure the viability of the railway company.