TransNamib says it is excited about the business prospects for the company, should government move ahead with the implementation of its metro rail passenger service in Windhoek.
The company, which currently operates a passenger rail services mainly linking towns, says the planned move by government to introduce a metro train service linking Windhoek with the airport, Okahandja and Rehoboth, will provide a new impetus to its business and its existing operating model.
“I am excited about this project, because it’s taking a long term prospective on moving passengers around and providing an alternative and a much safer means of transportation. We are working with the government on this project and have started engaging,” TransNamib CEO Johnny Smit told the Windhoek Observer.
He said progress had already been made towards realizing the ambitious project, with feasibility studies having already been completed.
“Government has already done the feasibility studies and it’s now a matter of pushing towards implementation and it is definitely an existing project that needs to happen in terms of the urban development requirements for Windhoek as a city. You need those kinds of projects in the long term,” the TransNamib boss said.
The company which is the custodian of the country’s rail network, is largely expected to operationalize the metro system when it’s implemented, with the CEO noting public private partnership may be required to realize the project.
“There are definitely projects that need to be developed because there must be private sector involved within those projects in terms of the capacity and also in terms of the financing between the government, the relevant local authority, and TransNamib being the third party. So those are all parties that need to be involved in those kinds of projects,” Smit said.
Asked if the company had the capacity to implement and manage the proposed train service, he said international expertise would be required for the project implementation because the proposed metro service will be the first of its kind in the country.
“Of course, as TransNamib, we need to make ourselves ready for these things. We have a backlog, but in projects like these, we will have to get international expertise because it’s completely new to the country,” Smit said.
Quizzed on the viability of TransNamib’s existing passenger business and if the company would rather become a fully-fledged freight moving rail business, Smit said the company will still continue to offer passenger services despite the service’s low returns, with the company also investigating the possibility of new routes.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a key part of our business, but what I would say, being a state entity, it’s important that we focus on certain strategic routes for passenger services in the long term. For now, there is a service that we run at least twice a week to the south, consisting of passengers and freight. We do the same with Walvis Bay about three times a week. But we are looking at other routes and we are discussing with government in terms of how we can implement it,” he said.
“We want to also focus on being able to provide an efficient service. With passengers, you need to be very sure that the trains will be on time in terms of arrival and departure. We will work on a strategy next year and focus on certain routes, but at least the experience that we need to provide on the train in terms of the quality of the service must also be good.”
Asked if the company was over-staffed and if the company had retrenched employees from its closed haulage business, Smit said, “I would not say we are over-staffed, it’s a wrong perception. When I joined the company, I made a promise to the staff that no one would lose their jobs; nobody has lost their jobs since.
“What we have done with employees from the road department, which is now closed, the majority of those staff members have been moved and are still with us. Some have retired or have resigned. We have found placements in other companies for others. However, the majority that were employed there have been moved to other departments that had gaps. The company has not had external recruitment for seven years, so there are a lot of gaps in other departments and that is what we have been doing. The process is not complete; we have really made good progress on this specific project called the ‘Redeployment Project.’”