Lobito Atlantic Railway consortium launch ceremony

ANGOLA: Operations, management and maintenance of the 1 344 km railway along the Lobito Corridor were formally transferred to the Lobito Atlantic Railway consortium at a ceremony hosted by the Municipal Administration of Lobito on July 4. Present at the event were President of Angola João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço President Hakainde Hichilema of Zambia and President Felix Tshisekedi from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Lobito Atlantic Railway is a joint venture consortium formed by Trafigura Pte Ltd, Mota-Engil Engenharia e Construcão África SA and Belgian rail operator Vecturis SA. Awarded the 30-year concession on November 4 last year, the consortium will handle freight traffic on the 1 067 mm gauge line that connects the deep-water port of Lobito with the network operated by Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer du Congo near the border town of Luau in eastern Angola. The line provides a direct link from Kolwezi in the heart of the Copperbelt to Lobito, offering a direct route for exports of copper, cobalt and other raw materials.

Lobito Atlantic Railway consortium launch ceremony

The consortium has announced plans to invest US$455m in Angola and up to US$100m in the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as a proposed link to Zambia. Planned investment includes acquisition of 35 locomotives and 1 555 wagons. Lobito Atlantic Railway has also committed to invest in training and skills; dedicated training colleges are already extant in Huambo and Lobito.

Highlighting the importance of the railway for Angola, President João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço said ‘the Lobito Corridor, which links Angola to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and whose concession we have given today … will certainly boost intra-African exports which currently account for only 14% of the total exports to the rest of the world. Figures like this show us the importance and necessity of putting our infrastructure at the service of the economic and social development of our countries and our continent. And we are doing so with vision, purpose and clearly defined objectives.’

Angolan Minister of Transport Ricardo Viegas d’Abreu described the Lobito Corridor as ‘a powerful infrastructure’ which definitively identifies the image of Angola to the world, including private investors and financial businesses in the USA, Europe and other countries.

CEO of Trafigura Jeremy Weir, speaking on behalf of Lobito Atlantic Railway, said that ‘we see the Lobito rail corridor as a partnership between the private and public sectors; a partnership of three countries ― Angola, DRC and Zambia ― and of three companies, Trafigura, Vecturis and Mota-Engil. Together, we have a shared vision of creating the most important logistics corridor in sub-Saharan Africa.

‘Our project will not only create a western route to market for goods and materials. We believe the Lobito rail corridor has huge potential to boost the development of sectors along the line including heavy industry, agriculture and mining, creating new jobs and new opportunities. We believe the Lobito railway will be a catalyst for growth and investment in Angola, DRC, Zambia and the wider region’, Weir continued.

The consortium indicated that investment in the railway will ensure ‘a faster and safer route’ for passenger trains run by Caminho de Ferro de Benguela which include Ombaka Express diesel multiple-unit services between Lobito and Benguela. It also said that ‘development of the rail corridor promises environmental and safety benefits by helping remove trucks from the road which should reduce border delays, the risk of road traffic accidents and road degradation, as well as cutting air pollution and carbon emissions’.

The line was extensively rebuilt in 2002-15 with the help of Chinese companies following serious damage caused by Angola’s civil war in 1975-2002.