In 2004 the Indian consortium of Rites and Ircon (Ricon) won an international tender to manage the Beira rail system, which consists of the Machipanda line from Beira to Zimbabwe, and the Sena line from Beira to the Moatize coal basin. The Beira Railroad Company, Caminhos de ferro do Beira (CCFB), was created, in which Ricon is the major shareholder with 51%. The major responsibility of Ricon was to rehabilitate the 575km Sena line, totally out of action since the start of the civil war.
In early February 2011, Caminhos de ferro do Moçambique (CFM – the state railway & harbours) invited journalists on an inspection of the Sena line. They were shown building work at railway stations that has not been completed, together with various problems including poor drainage. Sections of track were seen that lacked ballast. Equipment generally appeared “in a very poor state”, according to the newspaper O Pais. In the stations of Semecuesa and Berundi, 55km north of Beira, misaligned rails were noted, with humps in the track due to uneven ballasting. CFM director of communications Antonio Lebombo explained that “the problem of a lack of drainage means there is no guarantee that the route will be secure and passable in times of heavy rain. The absence of clean ballast in the correct amount can stop rainwater from seeping through. Given the large volume of coal to be transported, these factors could create serious operational problems”. Of the stations situated between Beira and Sena, only Muaza and Ihamitanga have been finished. In the opinion of Lebombo, this – along with other shortcomings – demonstrates that the Sena line is not fit for traffic. According to CFM chairman Rosario Mualeia, his experience of working with Ricon over the last six years led him to doubt that rebuilding of the Sena line would be completed in the time stipulated. He recommended that the responsibility should be taken over by CFM. Ricon originally undertook to deliver the Sena line, fully rehabilitated, by September 2009. When the line was still not ready by December 2010, the government set in motion procedures to cancel the contract. Ricon then promised to finish all major work on the line by 31 January 2010, but the government issued notification on 24 December that it intends to terminate the lease.
The contract included reconstruction of 17 railway stations, as well as construction and/or refurbishment of houses for operational staff. This work has been concluded at only two stations. In Caia, for example, construction work on the new station building began in August 2010, but up to the present, only the foundations have been laid.
“My greatest sadness at the end of the visit is at not having seen a single kilometre of line in a condition that meets the standards set out in the contract,” Rosário Mualeia said.