N$9 Billion for Railway Network Refurbishment

TRANSNAMIB’s board chairperson Pieter Oosthuizen yesterday appealed to the government for N$9 billion to refurbish the country’s aging railway infrastructure.

He said this at the commissioning of TransNamib’s first five refurbished fleet of locomotives by South Africa’s Transnet, in Windhoek.

In attendance were Minister of Works and Transport Erkki Nghimtina, TransNamib acting chief executive officer Hippy Tjivikua and Transnet’s Dion Skruwer, amongst others.

Oosthuizen said most railway tracks are aging and are not in very good condition. “If these tracks are not maintained, we will face serious safety issues and we may risk derailments or lose our hard-earned assets,” he said.

Oosthuizen said the tracks are not owned by TransNamib but by the government as they do not appear on their balance sheet.

“If we want to bring this rail infrastructure to support our rolling stock to superior levels, approximately N$9 billion is required to upgrade the railway to acceptable standards,” said Oosthuizen, appealing to government to inject money for this purpose.

The company last year launched its 180-day turnaround strategy, which has seen the retrenchment of 963 staff to cut costs, and will see the refurbishment of 31 more GE revenue-generating locomotives.

On the topic of retrenchment of staff, Oosthuizen said the workers will be turned into job creators, entrepreneurs and small and medium businesspeople by participating in TransNamib’s non-core businesses.

“Our turnaround strategy was well-calculated with vested political interest by our government and not to increase the already high unemployment rate,” said Oosthuizen, adding that TransNamib will transfer Desert and !Nara express to their empowering arm of employees to run.

He said this empowerment strategy will be structured in such a way that job losses will be minimised.

Tjivikua pointed out that the future of TransNamib was in public private partnerships and that a new mechanism should be crafted on how to collectively plan so as not to depend on fiscus endlessly.

Nghimtina said the government had not turned a blind eye on TransNamib, “We could not sit down and turn a blind eye on TransNamib. We consciously took a calculated political decision by intervening as the sole shareholder and commit additional resources for non capital needs to sustain services and business continuity.”

He said the government will support TransNamib in its remedial interventions and strategic initiatives that will reinstate operational equity, efficiency and long term sustainability.

Source : The Namibian