THERE IS increasing evidence that Spoornet’s drive to supply its expertise to other African railways is paying off. Apart from earning hard cash, it should also bring benefits to those railways in need of technical and managerial know-how.

Among recent moves is the establishment of a joint venture with Belgian National Railways called Comazar. This organisation is likely to play a key role in restoring efficient rail services in the Shaba copper mining region in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and it is bidding to run trains for Regifercam in Cameroon where there is considerable potential to expand timber and cotton traffic. Its ambitions also extend to Malagasy Railways and the Congo Ocean Railway.

In Cameroon around US$75m would be invested in the 1104 km network over 20 years; turnover in the first year would be around US$60m. Bidding against Comazar is another group taking in Systra of France.

Yet another Comazar scheme would see through rail services from South Africa to Tanzania. The idea would be to ship goods from South African producers north to markets in Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi through Zimbabwe and Zambia and then along the Tazara route to Katumba. A transhipment terminal would need to be built here to allow transfer between Cape gauge and the metre gauge of Tanzania Railways Corp. o