The Malawi government has to move with speed to work on the dilapidated 209 kilometres Blantyre-Marka Railway line to connect to the Sena corridor in Mozambique to reap maximum benefits, according to an influential mining publication.
The Sena railway line links the port of Beira in Mozambique to both the coal mining town in Moatize in Tete Province and the southern Malawian border district of Nsanje.
According to Mining Weekly, Mozambique port and railways company CFM expects to complete a much-delayed refurbishment of the Sena rail line by November this year.
“All the work is on track. This is the first phase of a rehabilitation of this infrastructure to be undertaken by CFM to ensure that the line is able to carry 12 million tons per year by 2013 and 20 million tons within three years,” CFM is quoted in a statement. It adds that after the upgrade is completed, the line will be able to carry 6.5 million tons of coal per year, up from two million tons now, before being expanded further.
Director of Transport Planning in the Ministry of Transport and Public Infrastructure Victor Lungu could not be reached for a comment yesterday on the latest developments.
But President Joyce Banda, on her arrival from Mozambique two weeks ago, said her government will put emphasis on the Sena corridor because it is economically viable.
“There is no harm in focusing on the Sena corridor as we wait for the Shire Zambezi waterway project,” said Banda at a news conference in Lilongwe.
Lungu earlier told Business News it has now become â€˜more attractiveâ€™ for the Malawi government to quickly rehabilitate the 209 kilometres rail line from Blantyre to Marka in Nsanje to connect to the Sena corridor.
He said after its completion, the countryâ€™s transport cost, which is one of the highest in the sub-region, will reduce by 25 percent, adding that it will also restore efficient links to other countries in the region and facilitate international trade.
Earlier figures provided by the ministry indicated that the 108 kilometres railway line from Blantyre to the collapsed Chilomo bridge in Nsanje would cost $50 million (K12.5 billion, at the current exchange rate) whereas the other portion up to Marka would need $30 million (K7.5 billion).
Mining Weekly says infrastructure bottlenecks remain the main concern for coal miners setting up in Mozambique, and both the government and the private sector have come up with various projects to expand and build new rail lines and ports.
Brazilâ€™s Vale, which is also expected to rehabilitate the rail line in Malawi, began first exports from its Moatize coal mine last year and already used the Sena line to move coal to Beira.
CFM was asked to complete the upgrade of the Sena line after the Mozambican government cancelled a contract it had with Indiaâ€™s Rites and Ircon (RICON) when the consortium failed to deliver the project despite many delays.
The line was initially scheduled for completion in September 2009 to carry coal from Tete where the likes of Vale and Rio Tinto are developing mines that will serve Mozambique and exports.