US company to invest $11bn in railway project in southern Africa

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US-BASED Railnet International is planning to invest about $11bn in a modern railway line and high-speed trains linking Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique in Southern Africa. According to Railnet’s CEO Donald Kress his company is in talks with governments in the three countries and have already signed an agreement to start feasibility studies in Zambia.

‘We have a group known as Magcor International and their CEO has arranged the financing through a group of investors. But until we sign a contract with the investors, they have requested to remain anonymous,’ he said.

The project’s timeline

He added that the investment in the project, running from Zambia’s Copperbelt province to the port of Beira in Mozambique via Harare in Zimbabwe includes the cost of locomotives and wagons. ‘Feasibility studies are expected to begin in the next six weeks and would be followed by a detailed engineering design for the project on the Zambian side,’ he affirmed.

He also confirmed that construction is expected to begin in January 2021, and that Railnet will replace the existing system to allow freight trains to travel at 120 km/hour and passenger trains at 160 km/hour.

Impact on the economy

Transport and Communication Permanent Secretary Misheck Lungu, who signed the agreement for Zambia said Railnet would build the new railway line parallel to the existing old one. He added that the project would enable businesses including mining companies in Africa’s second-largest copper producer to transport bulk cargo by railway instead of using roads. ‘Railnet will operate the modern railway for a number of years and hand it over to the government after recovering its investment from the profit made,’ Lungu affirmed.

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