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Goods traffic is to return to the branch line between the cities of Cuamba and Lichinga, in the northern Mozambican province of Niassa, under an agreement reached between the Niassa provincial government and the Northern Development Corridor (CDN), the private-led consortium that operates the line.
Rehabilitation of the 262 kilometre long Cuamba-Lichinga line was completed in late 2016, after years of complete paralysis due to the degraded state of the line.
Passenger services resumed almost at once, but the goods trains, from Nacala port along the main line to Cuamba, and then up the branch line to Lichinga, were only reintroduced on 16 June.
CDN, however, interrupted the goods service, on the grounds that there was not enough traffic back to Nacala to make the service worthwhile. A CDN source, cited by the Beira newspaper “Diario de Mocambique” said “it makes no sense for the wagons to return to Nacala empty. That represents a great waste”.
According to a report in Wednesday’s issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”, the Niassa provincial government has been negotiating with CDN since November. The provincial governor, Arlindo Chilundo, said agreement had been reached to introduce a train carrying both passengers and goods from Lichinga to Cuamba.
He believed the resumption of the goods service would cut the cost of living in Niassa, since transporting goods by rail is currently cheaper than road transport. That is because the rainy season has made travel along the roads to Lichinga difficult, particularly in the midst of the rehabilitation of the Cuamba-Lichinga road.
He believed that the problem of cargo for wagons making the return trip to Nacala will be solved when Niassa forestry companies begin sending processed wood along the line. In the longer term, minerals such as iron ore, coal and limestone can be exploited in Niassa, and can be moved by the railway.
Chilundo added that CDN is studying a proposal for freight tariffs submitted by the government.
One reason given by businesses in Lichinga for not using the railway is that the CDN tariffs are too high. In the dry season that made it cheaper to move cargo by truck between Nacala and Lichinga.