Malawi: Limbe-Balaka passenger train service suspended due to rampant vandalism of railway equipment

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

In a statement on Saturday, October 9, Nacala Logistics said the theft of Pandrol rail clamps and other rail materials is very high along this route and, for safety’s sake, the company said the passenger train will not be operational on this section until the problem occurs. of vandalism is fully addressed.

Nacala Logistics assures the traveling public that it is doing everything possible to fight against this vandalism so that the passenger train can resume its services soon.

However, the company’s route between Balaka and the Mozambican border town of Nayuchi will operate as normal.

Initial reports of the accident in Matindi said it involved one of the newly acquired Dash 9 locomotives, but Nacala Logistics communications manager Wezi Kalua explained that it was two locomotives, GT 204 and DE 523 as well as 19 wagons — which were heading towards Nkaya.

She also explained that the accident, which caused no injuries, occurred on Friday October 1 at 3:30 p.m. and that the next day at 2:28 p.m. the locomotives and wagons were put back on the tracks.

“The section where the derailment took place is rehabilitated and in good condition,” she said. “The trains have resumed their circulation on this section after the maintenance work.”

Passenger service between Limbe and Nkaya was suspended about three months ago due to maintenance work, but resumed on September 25 and Kalua said investigations were underway to determine the cause of the derailment.

In July, when President Lazarus Chakwera officially opened the new Shire North rail bridge that links the Limbe-Nkaya rail system, he called on communities living along the entire rail network to refrain from vandalizing equipment and railway materials being rehabilitated. .

“If you destroy or damage these developments, you will be caught and dealt with. If you break the law, the law will follow you,” he warned.

The President said that the objective of the rehabilitation of the ongoing railway projects is to have a truly national railway system and announced that his administration is ready to continue the gradual rehabilitation and modernization of the 201 km Limbe-Marka line. which connects to Mozambican. frontier.

This railway line is economically important for the import of Malawian goods and fuel from Beira in Mozambique, which was viable in the past.

When the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA) adjusts fuel prices, it applies the automatic pricing mechanism based on the Bonded Landed Cost (IBLC), which is the weighted average of the costs for each route on which the fuel is transported.

The weighted average cost is set at 50% via Beira (currently by road only); 30% by road via Dar-es-Salaam and 20% to Nacala by road and train.

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

On Saturday alone, the MERA raised fuel prices, effective midnight Sunday, with petrol selling at K1,150 per liter, up from K899.20 per litre, an increase of 27.89%.

Diesel is now at 1120K per liter from 899.00K, an increase of 24.72%, while paraffin has gone from 719.60K per liter to 833.20K, an increase of 15.79%.

Jose P. Rogers