The proposed Trans-Zambezi Railway in Namibia that will extend from the northern town of Grootfontein to the border town of Katima Mulilo will primarily serve as a freight transportation system. Katima Mulilo borders Zambia and Botswana.

This is indicated in a final feasibility study prepared by MR Technofin Consultants Ltd of Canada and recently approved by the Namibian government

Link to the news article :

The report highlighted that the main source of potential traffic is between the two endpoints of the Trans-Zambezi Railway, namely Grootfontein and Katima Mulilo.

These two stations are located at the extreme ends of the railway line.

Additionally, the report anticipates some minor traffic originating from the towns of Rundu and Divundu.

The report indicated that the railway operation will be conducted on a single line using diesel traction.

At present, the Namibian Railway system utilises diesel traction with 2000 HP locomotives and is planning to introduce 2250 HP diesel locomotives.

The maximum trailing load is restricted to 40 wagons for vacuum-braked wagons, with these wagons having an axle load of 16.5 tonnes.

Both vacuum brake and air brake rolling stock are in use.

The report added that the wagon payload and train load will adhere to the 16.5-tonne axle load limit until all railway infrastructure between loading and unloading points is upgraded to support an 18.5-tonne axle load.

The report’s key conclusion is that the proposed 772 km greenfield line is viable from various perspectives, including technical, environmental, legal, financial, and economic considerations, and it recommended moving forward with the project.

The Zambezi Extension Railway is expected to connect to the rail networks of Zambia and Botswana, providing direct access to regional railway traffic heading to the Walvis Bay Port.

Currently, the majority of freight transportation in Namibia is conducted by road, partly due to dissatisfaction with rail services and road transport pricing.

The report mentioned that discussions on rail operations and rolling stock requirements in the feasibility report assume that the existing railway line between Walvis Bay and Grootfontein will be upgraded to meet the recommended design specifications of the Trans-Zambezi Railway, specifically the 18.5-tonne/axle load.

The commercial success of the Trans-Zambezi Railway relies on the seamless movement of trains between the proposed Grootfontein-Katima Mulilo section and Namibia’s current network between Grootfontein and Walvis Bay.

The report underscored the significance of accommodating significant freight traffic from regional transit, with connectivity to and from the Walvis Bay port playing a vital role.

The existing Grootfontein-Walvis Bay railway section has a capacity of 16.5 tonnes per axle load and variable design speeds ranging from 50 km/h to 80 km/h.

The report assumes that this section will be upgraded to an 18.5-tonne/axle load and a design speed of 80 km/h to align with the proposed Trans-Zambezi railway extension.

The consultants disclosed that Botswana and Zambia are in the final stages of tendering a feasibility study for a 367 km railway line from Mosetse (Botswana) to Kazungula (Zambia) via the Kazungula Bridge. Another project under consideration is a 56 km railway line from Mmamabula (Botswana) to Lephalale (South Africa).

Given these developments, the report suggested that connecting the proposed line from Katima Mulilo to Botswana via Ngoma (Namibia) is a potential option, in addition to direct connectivity to Zambia through Katima Mulilo-Sesheke.

From Ngoma, the railway line would extend to northwest Botswana, linking with the proposed Mosetse-Kazungula line and ultimately connecting with the Kazungula Bridge, and eventually, Livingstone, Zambia.

The report also emphasised that both the financial returns for the Trans-Zambezi Railway and the economic benefits to Namibia would be significantly higher if the railway is extended into Zambia or Botswana, rather than limiting the project within Namibia’s borders