THOUSANDS OF Namibians gathered at Ondangwa on July 15 when President Hifikepunye Pohamba and Founding Father Dr Sam Mujoma officially opened the town’s new station, marking the completion of Phase 1 of the country’s northern extension railway.

The 246·5 km line from Tsumeb has taken four years to build at a cost of N$841m. The first section to Oshivelo was opened to traffic last year (RG 4.05 p182). Much of the civil works were done by local people, including 44000 volunteers, although the Namibia Rail Contractors joint venture was brought in to undertake the tracklaying. Around 25000 tonnes of rails have been laid on 352000 concrete sleepers, which were all cast at Tsumeb.

Financing for the northern extension project was provided by the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (US$4·9m) and the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (US$8·9m).

TransNamib has introduced a weekly through passenger service from Windhoek to Ondangwa, taking 16h for the 848 km trip. Windhoek - Tsumeb passenger trains currently run three times a week.

Construction is expected to start soon on the 55 km Phase 2, which will extend the line to Oshikango on the Angolan border; a branch to Oshakati is to follow. A future extension across the border would connect at Cassinga with DNCF’s Namibe Railway to the port of Moçamedes, which is now being rehabilitated.

H TransNamib is understood to have taken out of service the four diesel locos supplied by China Southern Locomotive & Rolling Stock Corp in 2005 at a cost of N$28m, following concerns about braking problems and reports of cracked underframes.