2. Let me also take you a step back so as to understand the circumstances that led to discontinuing the passenger train service. The stoppage was attributed to the fact that the coaches were in an unacceptable condition and there was a high level of risk exposure for the Organisation, as well as to the passengers and no longer viable to continue. Therefore, it was logical to discontinue the Passenger Train Service at that time. However since then, year by year there has been an increase in traffic density on our roads resulting in traffic congestion.
3. In view of the above, the Government accepted recommendations from a study commissioned by Botswana Railways, through the Ministry of Transport and Communications, which showed high public demand for the train to be brought back, which is why we are all gathered here to mark the official launch of the re-instatement of the Botswana Railways passenger service.
4. Botswana Railways has procured thirty-seven (37) coaches to operate this Service between Lobatse and Francistown. The service will be operated as night trains on a daily basis. Day trains will be operated during public holidays in addition to the night service to cater for demand. The aim is therefore, to complement the road and air services to improve mobility and also to facilitate trade.
5. The passenger train service will be called “BR Express”. I have been advised that the name “BR Express” denotes the elegant service that Botswana Railways plans to give to its customers. Botswana Railways aspires to provide the most comfortable, convenient and safe service to its customers as its competitive edge.
6. I know many of us used to and still refer to the passenger train as “The Blue Train”. The name I assume was possibly derived from its predominantly blue branding. Although the name was very popular, it was never the official name for the service as Botswana Railways is very much aware that there is a registered brand name “The Blue Train”, owned and operated by another entity. The passenger service will consist of the following classes:
• Standard (Economy) Class Coaches;
• Business Class Coaches;
• Sleeper (First) Coaches;
• Buffet car; and
• The Generator Van as well the Luggage Van.
7. The train will stop at six (6) strategic stations being Lobatse, Gaborone, Mahalapye, Palapye, Serule and Francistown. This is in view of considering the introduction of commuter trains in the future. Railways by their nature play an important role as economic enablers. This train will not only provide a greater mobility of our citizens, but will also help the country in its efforts to strengthen and stimulate its economy. More importantly, the re-instatement of the passenger train has created economic opportunities for most Batswana. Just to mention a few, the train offers opportunities for catering services, cleaning services, sanitation services and security services which I am told some have been outsourced. I encourage you to use and take care of this train as an alternative mode of transport, enjoy the comfort of it while also enjoying the sight of our beautiful country as the train steers through it.
8. As you are all aware, September 30, 2016 marks 50 years of our country’s independence. We have a number of events lined up to celebrate our 50th Anniversary as a United and Proud Nation. The independence of our beloved Botswana cannot go without the mention of a railway. Railway has played a very important role in the establishment of Botswana as a British Protectorate and subsequently as a Republic. Our forefathers have many stories to tell about rail transportation and some of us also have our share of story to tell when rail was the only convenient and reliable mode of transport.
9. I am happy to announce that the re-instatement of the Passenger Train Service also forms part of activities or projects lined up to celebrate our 50th Anniversary as a country. The newly procured passenger coaches that we are launching will transverse our country carrying the BOT 50 Logo. It is therefore an honour and privilege for me to declare the BR Express, our passenger train officially launched. Thank you for your attention. Pula!!!