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Swift locomotive delivery helps celebrate 30 years of rail travel, Botswana


Single point of contact

Key deadline met

Minimised infrastructure disruption


Botswana Railways is one of the busiest railways in Africa, carrying around 20% of the country’s population annually and delivering over 2 million tonnes of cargo. In order to enhance its service between second city Francistown and Bulawayo in neighbouring Zimbabwe, it ordered eight additional locomotives from a supplier in the USA.

ALE was chosen to deliver these machines from their entry port at Richards Bay, South Africa to Mahalaphe, Botswana, where they would be offloaded onto the rail network at a launch ceremony attended by the country’s President. Following decades of abnormal load transportation projects in the reason covering millions of miles, ALE was well-placed to deliver safely and efficiently.

The eight locomotives were received at Richards Bay for from a geared vessel to travel via road, as they exceeded the 3.96m South African rail height limit. ALE supplied eight 12-axle Goldhofer trailers with two prime movers – one in the front, one at the rear – and the journey then took place in four convoys of two combinations each.

Each pair of locomotives then set off on their 1,379km journey, along a route planned in advance by ALE in partnership with the transport departments, utility providers, telecommunications companies, councils and police of both countries. At 20.6m in length, 3.2m width and 4.5m height, it was necessary to temporarily reconfigure an array of transmission lines and street furniture to accommodate the locomotives.

Upon reaching the offload location, a 500t four-point lifting system was used to unload the 125t locomotives from atop the trailers; preferred to a crane for reasons of deployment cost-effectiveness, impact to the environment and requirement for civil modifications. Following offload, the trains were handed over to Botswana Rail.

This process was then completed three times, with the final delivery made 27 days after convoy one left port.

The project was completed successfully 13 days ahead of schedule. All the while, ALE acted as the single point of contact, handling the transportation itself, infrastructure changes required to complete it and the paperwork required to cross borders.

The trains were launched to celebrate the 30 year anniversary of Botswana’s national rail company, and are currently delivering passengers and goods to people across southern Africa.

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Abnormal Load Transport