US company plans $11bn Zambia-to-Mozambique rail line

Florida-based rail developer Railnet International is aiming to arrange an $11bn investment in a medium-speed rail line between Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, its chief executive said on Sunday (22 March).

Donald Kress said in an interview with Reuters that the company was in talks with governments in the three countries and had, on 21 March, signed an agreement to start feasibility studies in Zambia.

"We have a group known as Magcor International and their chief executive has arranged financing through a group of investors," he said.

He added: "Until we have signed a contract with the investors, they have requested to remain anonymous."

The idea is to build a link between Zambia’s Copperbelt province to the port of Beira in Mozambique via Harare in Zimbabwe.

Feasibility studies are expected to begin in the next six weeks and would be followed by detailed engineering design for the project on the Zambian side.

Railnet expects to begin construction in January 2021.

If built, the line would allow freight trains to travel at 120 km/h and passenger trains at 160 km/h.

Misheck Lungu, Zambia’s permanent secretary for transport, said Railnet would build its line parallel to the existing one.

Railnet, which was set up by a group of rail professionals to develop, design, build and operate rail systems, is also planning an 18,000km railway network that would link the West African nations of Mali, Senegal, The Gambia, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Côte D’Ivoire, Liberia, and Nigeria.

It said this ambitious rail system would boost countries’ economies, increase regional trade and improve the countries’ access to world markets.

The proposed rail system would be aimed at freight transport, and would connect mining, agriculture and manufacturing areas, which Railnet says will boost trade-based industrialisation that "will have an effect on the region of 300 million that has never before been possible".

In addition to upgraded and newly constructed railways, Railnet also intends to develop complementary infrastructure along rail routes, including communications, power, and water.

The West African scheme is one of a number that the company has planned for Africa. Its other projects include:

  • The G Rail system for Ghana. This will be a combined passenger and freight service linking mining and agricultural areas. The system would cover over 2,000km route miles with over 4,000km of track.
  • The Dakar-to-Bamako project envisages the upgrading of a 1,228km railway to standard gauge between Senegal and Mali, and is aimed at facilitating the export of Mali’s estimated 2 billion tonnes of bauxite.
  • Upgrading some 5,000km of rail in the Democratic Republic of Congo from narrow to standard gauge.

Image: The Nkana copper mine in Kitwe, Zambia. Railnet’s proposal would probably rely on finance from mining interests (Per Arne Wilson/CC BY-SA 3.0)

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  1. A rail line linking the Copper belt in Zambia, to Beira Port in Mozambique, is certainly an excellent idea. I hope it starts in Chingola!

  2. Whoever idea it was, it’s a brilliant one. That will improve the economy in this region, because it will enable the economic drivers of the region which are mining and agriculture to grow massively

  3. The USA company will not do it, due to their lending practices. Funds are not easily released in the USA, especially for a speculative project such as this. Don’t hold your breath about it. I won’t bet on it. Why not use the same effort elsewhere.

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