WIT Press

Environmental and economic benefits of railway electrification of Southern African countries


Free (open access)


Volume 2 (2018), Issue 2



Page Range

136 - 145

Paper DOI



WIT Press


Edson Lungomesha & Ackim Zulu


The Southern African region is made of nine countries, each with own local railway network. Most of the countries have railway links with neighbouring countries resulting in the formation of a wide railway network. Majority of the locomotives currently in use in most of these countries are diesel powered despite efforts made by some countries such as South Africa and Zimbabwe of electrifying some of their domestic railway routes. The focus of the research article is on the economic and environmental benefits that Southern African countries can draw from an electrified railway network. It is expected that there would be reduced railway locomotive exhaust fumes-related pollutants in the environment resulting in cleaner air. High-speed associated with electric trains would encourage the use of railway transport for both passenger and heavy goods movement which at the moment are dominated by road and air transport. The use of comparatively safe and cost-effective railway transport would not only improve trade among member countries but also attract foreign investment. It is expected that trans- portation of industrial raw materials and finished products would not only be efficient but also cost- effective. Reduction of heavy goods traffic would besides decongesting the roads, but also bring down the cost of road maintenance. Finally, the damaging effects of the locomotives’ exhaust fumes would be avoided if railway electrification was embarked on. In addition, trade between member countries is expected to increase due to comparatively cost-effective fast movement of goods and passengers. The region is expected to save some foreign exchange due to reduced expenditure on road maintenance and locomotive diesel imports.


economic and environmental benefits, railway electrification, Southern Africa