North-South Rail Corridor study: An example of what Africans can achieve when working together
Movement of people and cargo by rail in the SADC region has been on a decline over the last decade due to a significant under investment in infrastructure and rolling stock. Most corridors in the region move less than 10% of surface transport freight volumes on rail with the majority being moved by road. This imbalance between road and rail has resulted in significant road rehabilitation costs, environmental impact including pollution and major externalities such as road accident deaths.
A single coordinated corridor development plan was thus envisaged as a solution to address the modal imbalance between road and rail on the North-South Rail Corridor which is one of the major transport spines that moves people and freight in the SADC region. "In commemoration of Africa Day and the in the spirit of African cooperation, the NBF is pleased to share the North-South Rail Corridor story of collaboration to increase the movement of people and goods in the SADC region. Africa's growth, development and success hinges on Africans connecting with each other and the North-South Rail Corridor is an excellent example of Africa's integration and what can be achieved through cooperation." said Ms Lynette Chen, CEO of the NEPAD Business Foundation.
The North-South Rail Corridor project showcases the cooperative efforts of five rail operators in SADC, working together to increase intra-African trade in the region. The North-South Rail Corridor consists of a rail network that stretches over 3000 km, from Durban in South Africa through Zimbabwe and Botswana and links to the Democratic Republic of Congo passing through Zambia. It is SADC's main international rail gateway for transporting inbound and outbound cargo. The North-South Rail Corridor study being developed will be used as a blueprint to grow the freight and passenger volumes transported on the corridor and to reduce the cost of rail transportation through better pricing and service strategies.
A memorandum of understating has been signed between the rail operators on the North-South Rail Corridor which includes Zambia Railways Limited (ZRL); Grindrod/Beitbridge - Bulawayo Railways (BBR); Société Nationale des Chemins de fer du Congo (SNCC); National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ); Swaziland Railway (SR); Transnet SOC and Botswana Railways (BR). The North-South Rail Corridor infrastructure and logistics study will focus on the rehabilitation and upgrade of the rail corridor and is being financed by the SADC Infrastructure Project Preparation Fund, managed by the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA). Most rail operators in the SADC region have been struggling to meet the government's expectations for efficient, reliable and competitive railway services. This has been due to limited working capital as the main cause for poor reliability of rolling stock and dilapidated rail infrastructure.
The NBF is acting as project manager, facilitating the engagement between the rail operators and appointed technical consultants who are expected to complete the study within the next nine months. Through the support of the SADC Secretariat, the NBF has also secured regional and political support for this North-South Rail corridor project from the SADC Ministers of Transport and regional bodies such as Southern Africa Rail Association (SARA).