Limbe-Balaka passenger train service suspended due to rampant vandalism of rail equipment

Following the derailment of a goods train last week (October 1) at Matindi in Blantyre — close to National Oil Company of Malawi (NOCMA) fuel tanks — Nacala Logistics has suspended its passenger train service for the next two weeks due to rampant vandalism on this Limbe-Balaka route.

In a statement issued on Saturday, October 9, Nacala Logistics said theft of rail pandrol clips and other rail materials is very high along this route and as a safety concern, the company said the passenger train will not be operational on this section until the issue of vandalism is fully dealt with.

Goods trains are operating

Nacala Logistics assures the travelling public that it is putting all its effort to fight this vandalism for the passenger train to resume its services soon.

However, the company’s route of Balaka to Mozambique border town of Nayuchi will be operating normally.

The first reports of the accident at Matindi indicated that it involved one of the newly-acquired Dash 9 locomotive but Nacala Logistics communication officer, Wezi Kalua explained it was two locomotives, GT 204 and DE 523 together with 19 wagons — which were going towards Nkaya.

She also explained that the accident, from which no one was injured, happened on Friday, October 1 at at 15:30hrs and by the next day at 14:28hrs, the locomotives and wagons were re-railed.

“The section where the derailment took place is rehabilitated and in good condition,” she said. “Trains resumed moving on this section after maintenance works were done.”

The passenger service between Limbe and Nkaya was suspended some three months ago due to some maintenance works but resumed on September 25 and Kalua said investigations were ongoing to determine the cause of the derailment.

In July, When President Lazarus Chakwera officially inaugurated the new Shire North railway bridge that connects Limbe-Nkaya rail system, he had appealed to the communities living along the whole rail network to desist from vandalising rail equipment and materials that are being rehabilitated back to life.

“If you destroy or damage these developments, you will be caught and dealt with. If you don’t follow the law, the law will follow you,” he had warned.

The President had said the goal for the rehabilitation of rail projects underway is to have a railway system that is truly national and announced that his administration is set to continue the phased rehabilitation and upgrading of the 201km Limbe-Marka-line that connects to the Mozambican border.

This rail line is economically important for Malawi’s goods and fuel importation from Beira in Mozambique, which was viable in the past.

When Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA) adjusts fuel prices, it applies the Automatic Pricing Mechanism as according to in-bond landed cost (IBLC), which is the weighted average of costs for each route the fuel is transported.

The weighted average of costs is set at 50% through Beira (currently by road only); 30% by road through Dar-es-Salaam and 20% for Nacala by road and train.

If the fuel transportation was to be used through rail (Beira and Nacala) as was done during reign of President Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda, pump prices could have been lower than the current situation.

Just on Saturday, MERA increased fuel prices, effective midnight of Sunday with petrol selling at K1,150 per litre — up from K899.20 per litre, representing 27.89% increase.

Diesel is now at K1,120 per litre from K899.00 representing an increase of 24.72% while paraffin has gone up from K719.60 per litre to K833.20, an increase of 15.79%.

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