AFRICA: A framework agreement ‘to help contain the unregulated movement of technical staff’ between railways in different countries is being drawn up by the Southern Africa Railways Association, in a move to prevent skill shortages from crippling their members’ operations.

The move was announced following by a SARA committee meeting at the end of November. Executive Director Bernard Dzawanda said the regional organisation recognised the need for free movement of technical staff, but this had to be exercised in a responsible way. ‘We are trying to finalise a framework in which we exchange staff without necessarily paralysing any one of our members’, he explained.

The railways in the region have strong historic links, and need to work together better if rail is to compete effectively for international flows. From South Africa to DR Congo and Angola to Mozambique, most of the railways are suffering from serious skill shortages and badly run-down or life-expired infrastructure and rolling stock. With SARA also looking for the development of common technical standards and cost-effective ways to restore or enhance railway capacity, the recruitment, training and retention of technical staff must be a high priority across the region.