THE ZAMBIAN government has formalised an agreement with the private-sector Northwest Railways Ltd to build a new line serving the country's Northwest province. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed on April 25 by Communications & Transport Minister Abel Chambeshi and former Vice-President Enoch Kavindele, now Chairman of Woodgate Holdings and NWR.

The line is intended to serve the copper reserves in Kansanshi and Lumwana, where Canadian and Australian mining companies have recently started operations. Following completion of initial studies, the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa is funding a detailed survey for the line.

NWR's first phase will run for 178 km from the existing Railway Systems of Zambia network at Chingola to Solwezi; it is expected to cost around US$75m to build and provide work for 2000 local people. The second phase would add a further 67 km to Lumwana.

In the longer term, Kavindele hopes to see the route extended into Angola, to connect with the Benguela Railway. This would help to reinstate Zambia's major copper export corridor to the port of Lobito, avoiding the war-damaged section of line through the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Chambeshi said the government was keen to encourage public-private partnerships in the development of transport infrastructure. He expected the line to open up large areas of northwest Zambia and promote investment in both mining and agriculture.