US firm Railnet International has launched a feasibility study into the construction of a new railway from Zambia’s Copperbelt, through Zimbabwe and to the port of Beira in Mozambique.
Donald Kress, CEO of Railnet, said that his company is in talks over the project with the governments of the three countries concerned.
If the feasibility study is completed as planned, a very ambitious schedule will see a more detailed engineering design undertaken this year, and construction work begin in early 2021. It is not yet known whether the economic and logistical impact of the COVID-19 pandemic affect this timetable.
Construction costs are estimated at US$11B, including the purchase of locomotives and wagons. Freight trains will travel on the line at speeds up to 120 kph, and passenger trains at 160 kph.
Kress told Reuters that financing had been arranged through a group called Magcor International. “Until we have signed a contract with the investors, they have requested to remain anonymous,” said Kress.
The line will be built parallel to the existing, colonial era railway to Beira, which is in a poor state of repair.
At present, Zambia mainly exports its copper through the ports of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and Durban in South Africa. It appears that the project would be developed under a build-own-operate-transfer (BOOT) contract that would allow Railnet International to recoup construction costs and a profit, before ownership would be transferred to the three governments.
Railnet is seeking to develop rail projects elsewhere in Africa. These include: