Batswana will have to wait a little longer for the much anticipated return of the passenger train as it misses the December 2015 target. The Minister of Transport and Communications Tshenolo Mabeo revealed that the blue train-as the train was commonly known, will now start operations in March 2016. “I know most Batswana are eagerly awaiting the train and I assure them it will be in operation come March 2016,” said Mabeo.
It was initially announced at the beginning of the year that the train will be re-instated by December 2015. However, Mabeo explained that the three months delay is attributed to failure of finding a suitable supplier in time. He said none of the companies that tendered at the first stage were able to show beyond doubt that they could deliver satisfactorily. “At first we were using an open tendering model but then we decided to go the selective tendering route. That is when we managed to get a company suited for the job,” explained Mabeo.
He went on to say by this time they have lost three months on the schedule hence the three months delay. The tender to provide the coaches has been awarded to a South African company called Transnet Engineering at the cost of around R280 million.
Just like many Batswana, Mabeo is looking forward to the return of the passenger train saying it will go a long way to help decongest the A1 road especially during the holidays. “There is usually traffic congestion on our roads during the holidays and the return of the train will help ease this as some people will use the railroad,” he said.
Mabeo also pointed out that this will lead into developments as Botswana railways stations will have to be refurbished to upgrade their status for the new train. He said this will even help create employment for different companies locally.
The passenger train was stopped indefinitely in early 2009. At that time Botswana Railways (BR) attributed the stoppage to the expensive running costs of the train. The organisation felt the passenger train was too costly and did not bring in revenue. However, Botswana Railways Director of Business Development Steven Makuke confirmed that a thorough business case was developed for a new business model to run the train commercially.