Countdown for blue train

SHARE   |   Wednesday, 11 February 2015   |   By Othusitse Tlhobogang
Botswana railways train Botswana railways train

… Less than 12 months to go!

After almost six years of absence, the passenger train is returning at the end of the year - Botswana Railways (BR) officials have confirmed. Tenders have already been rolled out for the purchase of 37 coaches.
To the dissatisfaction of many Batswana, the passenger train was stopped indefinitely in early 2009. At that time 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.
This caused a huge public outcry as passengers protested the stoppage. Most people pointed that the move was going to affected them as they relied heavily on the train. They felt that dealing away with the train will cause congestion on the roads as passengers will not have any other alternative mode of transport. Now that Botswana Railways has confirmed the re-instatement of the train, the public has welcomed the development.
Kamogelo Tabengwa said she is happy that the train will be coming back. Tabengwa - who originates from Francistown and stays in Gaborone - pointed that this will help her to travel as frequently as she pleases to see her family. “It is expensive to travel there by bus while by train is cheaper,” said Tabengwa.
She went on to say the return is long over-due, saying it will come handy during holidays when buses struggle to cope with the number of passengers. Normally during holidays the public transport is overwhelmed by the large number of people who want to travel to their home villages. Tabengwa pointed out that the train used to ease congestion. 
BR Director of Business Development, Steven Makuke, confirmed that the train is expected to be operational by the end of this year. “The train is brought back after a thorough business case was developed which proposed a new business model to run it commercially,” he added. Makuke said at first the train was scrapped off because of critical safety and maintenance issues.
According to BR communications office, the train will now be offering an improved service with better comfort and safety. The amount for the coaches could not be disclosed as the process is still at a tender stage.
The train will operate its usual route between Lobatse and Francistown. Makuke indicated that discussions are on-going around the construction of a railway line from Mosetse to Kazungula. He said that if everything goes according to plan the rail line will be connecting to the Kazungula Bridge, which will be built soon. This will help the BR to maximise its profitability and open alternative trading routes for Botswana to neighbouring countries.



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