MAPUTO, The Mozambican government and the Thai Mocambique Logistica (TML) consortium have signed an addendum to a railway construction agreement extending the route of the new railway planned between Tete and Zambezia provinces by an additional 120 kilometres.

Originally the railway was planned to run from the Moatize coal basin in Tete Province in northwestern Mozambique to a new deep water port to be built at Macuse on the Zambezia coast in central Mozambique. The extension is for an additional 120 km of track west of Moatize, to Chitima in Cahora Bassa district.

The addendum to the agreement was signed by Transport Minister Carlos Mesquita and by the chairperson of the Thai Mocambique Logistica, Jose Fonseca, in the locality of Supinhio, about 50 kilometres from the Zambezia provincial capital, Quelimane, last Friday.

Speaking after the signing ceremony, Mesquita said construction of the new railway was expected to begin in the second half of 2019, and could create 20,000 jobs. Mesquita’s forecast for the start of construction is a year later than the date announced by Ministry officials in August.

Fonseca said the consortium was anxious to start work, adding that delays in the take-off of the project had been caused by the need to achieve consensus on the key technical and administrative aspects.

With the extension to Chitima, the new railway will be 639 kilometres long. The total cost of the railway and the port at Macuse is estimated at 2.7 billion US dollars. Coal is the main cargo expected to use the railway and the port, and the extension accommodates the interests of companies mining coal in Cahora Bassa district.

The railway will be the longest brand new railway built since Mozambique achieved independence in 1975. At 900 kilometres, the line from Moatize to Nacala-a-Velha, on the northern coast, is longer, but parts of that line run along the existing northern railway, built prior to independence. The line to Macuse will be the third railway linking the coal producing areas of Tete to the Indian Ocean.

The majority shareholder in TML is Italian Thai Development Company (Ital-Thai) of Thailand, with 60 per cent. Its partners are Mozambique’s publicly owned port and rail company, CFM, with 20 per cent, while the private Zambezia Development Corridor (CODIZA) holds the remaining 20 per cent.