Botswana Railways (BR) is still to provide answers as to what caused the derailment of 16 wagons carrying soda ash on 19th November.
Almost five weeks since the incident that is expected to cost the national rail liner millions of Pula, BR Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Leornard Makwinja admitted their investigations are yet to determine the cause of the accident.
Makwinja was speaking during an update of the BR Recovery Effort in Mosetse – where the accident occurred – last Thursday.
He described the derailment as a major loss to both government and his parastatal.
The CEO stressed BR cannot afford to have a damaged rail line to Sowa Town as Botash is one of their biggest clients.
Makwija, whose contract comes to an end this December, explained that ordinarily a rail line should have a fence barrier to control access by animals and human beings.
“But this one does not have a barrier. It was erected but people have removed it and this poses a serious danger,” he said.
Makwinja appealed to the village leadership to ‘keep an eye on things’, including the train itself.
“We’re working on having technology that will give us 24-hour surveillance. But until then, we plead with you to be our eyes. You should report to us any suspicious or unbecoming behavior from any of our employees. You can even report if you felt the train was speeding,” stated Makwinja.
For his part, Kgosi Mmoloki Tshabisa conceded it was indeed true people had vandalised the barrier fence, giving animals free access to the rail tracks.
“It’s possible that people might even be stealing the concrete that supports the tracks which could have caused this accident, especially during these heavy rainfalls. I know some people create ramps to allow their cars and animals to cross the rail tracks which also poses a danger to train drivers,” said Tshabisa.
The Chief promised the CEO to keep educating his people on the importance of taking care of the rail tracks.
“This rail line is key to Botswana’s economy. If we damage it, we’re taking away food from the mouths of many!” said Kgosi Tshabisa.
Meanwhile, BR Recovery Effort Project Manager, Baboloki Phuthego revealed they have successfully managed to put all 16 wagons back on track, adding the carriages have since been pulled to Francistown for inspection.
Phuthego said the total cost of the damage is yet to be ascertained.
“There’s a possibility that some of the wagons will be written off, but all that can be conclusive after inspection.”
However, Phuthego, who’s an Engineering Manager by profession, insisted the recovery effort was a success as there were no oil spillages.
“The biggest challenge during this project was that the wagons had soda ash making them very heavy. We had to find a way of preserving the ash, which was sent back to Sowa Town Mine,” he said, adding they also had to brave torrential rains.
“Everything went well. We were able to construct a temporary track around the accident scene to allow trains to pass without any hindrance at the crossing loop,” concluded Phuthego.