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Malawi: Railway Transport Registers Progress in Landlocked Malawi

Malawi experienced substantial development and strategic positioning for the future in regards to rail development with notable highlights being, among other things, increased Regional Integration, according to the Director of Railway Services, Geoffrey Magwede.

“CEAR and Vale Logistic Limited continued their successful operation of the Nacala Corridor, with increased frequencies leading to a rise in freight traffic. This demonstrated the potential of rail transport as a more efficient and cost-effective alternative to road for regional trade. Additionally, African Rail Cooperation was registered as a new railway operator in Malawi,” he says.

Magwede discloses, a total of 14,416,770.55 Tons of cargo passed through Malawi’s railway network in 2023 with 13,638,260 Tons being coal and 778,510.55 Tons being general cargo.

Currently works for the rehabilitation of the Marka to Bangula railway section in southern Malawi commenced with a detailed design stage completed and physical works ongoing and currently with trains from the Indian Ocean Port of Beira in Mozambique port bringing construction materials for the project up to Marka in Nsanje District in Malawi, he says.

“Construction of major railway bridges along the Limbe to Salima section has been ongoing with an expected improved capacity of the Limbe to Nkaya section and re-establishment of railway access to Salima from Nkaya once the bridge works are completed within Malawi,” says Magwede.

Another milestone has been improved efficiency of the rail transport in Malawi following the successful enforcement of safety standards, infrastructure standards, operational standards and rolling stock standards for the railway concessionaires and operators in Malawi achieved by implementation of frequent inspection and monitoring activities.

“There has also been Improved human resource capacity of the rail sub-sector following implementation of training programs in Transport and Logistics for engineers at the Department. Other engineers were sent to attend post graduate training in railway specialized courses abroad.

And there is good participation in the reduction of theft and vandalism of railway infrastructure materials in regards to policy development with the Ministry of Trade and Industry and other stakeholders.

He says efforts are still on-going to reduce vandalism and theft of railway infrastructure. However, there has been low progress in railway rehabilitation projects.As much as railway rehabilitation projects were on going in the country in 2023, they registered slow progress due to various factors including erratic fuel supplies in the country, occurrence of Tropical Cyclone Freddy, devaluation of the Malawi Kwacha just to mention a few.

“Cases of theft and vandalism of railway infrastructure mainly railway fastening, steel sleepers and fishplates has been influenced by misalignment of regulation enforcement on the scrap metal industry. And despite the implementation of various railway safety awareness initiatives by both the Ministry of Transport and Public Works and railway concessionaires, there were a lot of fatal railway accidents along the operational railway sections. The Department of railway services intends to intensify railway safety awareness campaigns to communities in the affected sections of the railway,” Magwede says.

Malawi only has railway connectivity to Mozambique and Zambia. There is currently no railway connection to Tanzania. The upcoming feasibility study for the expansion of the railway to the North will explore the possibility of extending the railway to Tanzania, Magwede explains. With the inter-connection with Mozambique, Malawi benefits from direct rail access to the Nacala and Beira ports and Zambia is apparently also connected to the railway system in Malawi at Chipata