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The rail freight service from Nacala in Nampula to the provincial capital of Niassa, Lichinga, reintroduced on June 16 of this year after a long hiatus due to the poor state of the line, has again been suspended, this time for lack of load from Lichinga to Nacala.
A senior Northern Development Corridor (CDN) official told Diário de Moçambique that it would not make sense for the wagons to return to Nacala empty, as that would be wasteful.
“The freight train is not running because there is not enough cargo coming back from Lichinga. For example, the first train went with 15 full wagons, but on the return trip, only four were loaded with corn.
“Another went with almost half that amount of goods, but 11 wagons came back empty, and this at a time when prices were on promotion. Even so, there was not enough cargo. So they are not moving. But as soon as there is a load that justifies it, the train will resume normal activities,” the source says.
Business people in Lichinga interviewed by Diário de Moçambique said that transporting goods by rail was more expensive than transporting them by road, even in the rainy season, when the roads are worse than usual.
Ronata Lekhotra, manager of Sallu Trading Ltd. in Niassa province, whose company loaded 15 wagons on the first train, said transporting the goods by rail involved a lot of expense and work.
“Just to transport goods from the warehouse in Nacala by truck to the train and unloading here in Lichinga to our warehouses cost us more than 50,000 meticais. That doesn’t include what you pay for the wagons. But if we transport by road, the next stop is the door of our warehouse. Costs are minimal,” he explained.
A team from CDN had contacted him to find out why he had stopped using the service, he related.
“We told them that it was very costly to transport cargo by train because of the additional costs, so that did not make much of a difference with using trucks. We said the CDN should review its rates, but we don’t know if they took our observations into account.”
“So we continue to transport goods by road, because it comes at a reasonable price,” he said, revealing that at the time of the first rail shipment he had been approached by “members of government” who had “made the the rail transport to Lichinga possible”.
Mohadali Paltani, manager of Coset Trading, said he had never used the CDN rail link because prices were very high.
“The prices offered by CDN do not differ much from what we pay when we transport the cargo in trucks. In fact, the trucks are actually cheaper. I think the CDN should review its prices,” he said.Source: Diário de Moçambique