Zambia Railways Limited says it has in the last 24 hours, suspended train operations between Livingstone and Victoria Falls Town on the Zimbabwean side following a theft of 647 Pandrol Clips by unknown people.
Zambia Railways Manager Southern Region Joel Chilufya who confirmed the incidence says the running of trains between Zambia and Zimbabwe was temporarily suspended as the track had been rendered risky for train operations.
Mr Chilufya said the theft was discovered around 10 hours on Thursday by one of the Zambia Railways workers on patrol and immediately reported to both Zambia Railways and State Police
Among the goods affected by the temporal closure of the line were 35 wagons of copper concentrates destined for South Africa as well as 26 wagons of wheat destined for Lusaka.
“I must mention that this is the first time we have experienced theft of such magnitude on this particular line. It has largely been quite and secure compared to other sections of the main line. We treat theft of vital rail components as sabotage and culprits have to face the full force of the law” said Mr Chilufya.
Statistics from the ZRL Police Unit indicate that the company records cases of theft or vandalism of key railway components on a weekly basis, thereby hampering the smooth operations of the company.
Zambia Railways infrastructure is treated as a national asset and is protected by the Amended Railway Act of 1984. Those convicted of rail crimes such as theft of Pandrol clips and fish plates are considered saboteurs and face up to 21 years in prison, under the law.
Meanwhile Zambia Railways has assured its customers as well as members of the general public that its Emergency Response Team is already on the ground and normal operations were expected to be restored within 24 hours.
Zambia Railways wishes to make a strong and passionate appeal to members of the public to help protect vital railway infrastructure by reporting suspects to the nearest Zambia Railways offices or any security enforcement wings.
In the meantime, ZRL will continue to engage members of the community spread along the length and breadth of its railway network (that stretches from Mulobezi in Western Province to Chililabombwe on the Copperbelt) through meetings, Public Address announcements, radio programmes and other information dissemination platforms, in order to find a common and lasting solution to rail crimes.
This is according to a statement issued by Caristo Chitamfya, the Zambia Railways Limited Public Relations Manager.