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The first goods train from the northern Mozambican port of Nacala will reach Lichinga, capital of Niassa province on Friday, according to a press release from the Northern Development Corridor (CDN), the private-led consortium which operates the Nacala port and railway.
The train consists of 15 wagons, each with the capacity to hold 40 tonnes – five are carrying cement, five carry wheat, one is loaded with salt and there are two tanker wagons full of fuel. The train left Nacala on Wednesday to begin the 795 kilometre journey to Lichinga.
The final stretch of line, the 262 kilometre spur from Cuamba to Lichinga, was built in 1972 in the closing years of the colonial period, but the Portuguese engineers cut corners, by using light weight rails and timber sleepers. The line was thus always fragile and liable to suffer derailments. Nonetheless, it was a vital lifeline for Niassa which allowed fuel and other basic commodities to reach Lichinga from Nacala at a reasonable price.
During the war of destabilisation, the line came to a complete standstill, and goods could only reach Lichinga by a hazardous and expensive road journey. After the war CDN won the lease on the Nacala port and railway, including the spur to Lichinga.
CDN ran trains sporadically to Lichinga. But the Cuamba-Lichinga stretch was in such poor condition that in 2010 traffic on this branch line was suspended altogether. Complete reconstruction began in 2014.
President Filipe Nyusi inaugurated the rebuilt Cuamba-Lichinga branch line in November 2016. But up until now it has only carried passenger traffic, largely because businesses protested at the high tariffs CDN wanted to charge for goods, a problem that CDN does not mention in its release.
The CDN charges meant that the railway was not competitive with road haulage companies. Earlier this month a source in the Niassa provincial government told AIM that negotiations with CDN led to the company agreeing to drop its charges from 75.53 to 47.54 US dollars a tonne, about three dollars a tonne lower than the charges demanded by road haulage companies.
The CDN release said that, since the re-inauguaration in November of the Cuamba-Lichinga line “the safe and comfortable circulation of passenger trains has been guaranted”, while this Friday “will go down in history as the date of the resumption of goods trains”.Source: AIM