The railway industry performance is way behind the planned targets with revenue, traffic and freight overall performances failing to reach half of the set targets for 2011, according to a sector performance review report by the Ministry of Industry and Trade.
The under utilisation of the industry is said to be making transportation costs of goods to be rather expensive in the southern region, experts have said.
These observations were made during a joint transport sector review meeting in Lilongwe which run from Monday to Tuesday.
"Total traffic movement for the entire period under review was 43 per cent of the planned target for the year and 17 percent lower than what was moved over the same period," says part of the review statement.
Controller of Railway Transport Service, Geoffrey Magwede, indicated that the revenue realised during the period under review was only 55 per cent of what was budgeted and 37 percent below what was achieved in 2010.
The report further said the total number of passengers moved over the period under review was 39 percent of planned target and 51 percent lower than the previous year.
"One of the main contributing factors for the traffic decline was the scarcity of fuel which impacted on exports, imports and local traffic. A significant number of trains had to be cancelled or rescheduled," reads the report in part.
The other factor mentioned was aged equipment as the locomotive fleet is said to be 30 years old and as such spare parts are not readily available.
"Also the fact that the locomotives are old means the need for constant maintenance and repairs is very high and thus very costly to keep them running," reads part of the report.
Chairman of Clearing and Forwarding Agents Association of Malawi, Edward Kalua said that under utilisation of the railway sector leads to overreliance of the road sector hence high freight costs in the country.
"The railway industry has not done much to complement the road transport. We will remain very uncompetitive in the region because we don't have an option," Kalua said in the hope that the meeting would be an opportunity to devise measures that could improve the railway sector.
The aim of the meeting was to discuss transportation sector in areas of performance, targets and challenges among others and brought together stakeholders from civil society, development partners as well as participants from the public and private sectors.