Railway to remain in Swakop

Confusion about envisaged relocation of Swakopmund airstrip

01 September 2020 | Local News

Swakopmund • [email protected]

Despite objections, the Swakopmund town council has approved the development of the new precincts to be called Hage Geingob Square and Desert View during its council meeting yesterday.

The Hage Geingob Square is a 282ha area on which the airport is currently located. The 191ha Desert View, is located between the Swakop River and the existing railway line.

The two precincts are separated by the railway line, which currently forms a loop through the town.

“I reject this proposal because it will declare the relocation of the railway line null and void,” said town councillor Wilfried Groenewald (SRA) during the council meeting. The two opposition councillors joined him in voicing their disapproval, although their objections fell on deaf ears. The developments were thus approved.

According to Groenewald, the existing railway line will affect future developments in Swakopmund.

“If the railway line is not moved, more bridges will have to be built. With the developments in Walvis Bay, rail traffic will increase along with road traffic. An accident with an acid tanker or with other flammable material can trigger a catastrophe,” Groenewald said.

He highlighted several examples of this: A few days ago an acid tanker derailed near the Kranzberg railway station, and a similar scenario could occur in Swakopmund.

In addition, regular loads of ammonium nitrate are currently rolling from the port of Walvis Bay through Swakopmund to the mines – a load that could contain up to 4 000 tons of ammonium nitrate. In this context, Groenewald recalled the explosion in Beirut last month where 2 700 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded.

“If you ignore these facts, you can only describe it as irresponsible,” the councillor.

Town council member Uahimisia Kaapehi (NUDO) agreed, saying: “It would be a mistake if we did not consider the future of the railroad with this development. It is similar to the new railway bridge (at the eastern entrance to the town) that was built without us being consulted,” Kaapehi said.

He does not want to see town council painted in a bad light and therefore called for further consultations.

“[State railway company] TransNamib has informed us that they have no intention of moving the route,” municipal chief executive Archie Benjamin said. “For this reason, the renovation of the existing route has already started.”

Hage Geingob Square

The development of Hage Geingob Square also affects the area on which the Swakopmund airstrip is currently located. With the approval of the development, the airstrip will be relocated.

According to the draft resolution, however, there is confusion about this undertaking, because: “The airfield must be reserved for the state and transferred to the Namibia Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA),” according to the draft resolution, as decided by the township committee.

The document describes this decision as "regrettable", as the township committee did not give any reasons and the two responsible agencies were not informed.

“The town planning department is not convinced that the township committee has the authority to tell town council how to develop land. We can start negotiations with the committee, but the committee has no authority to do so, which is another challenge,” it said.

In this regard, Benjamin said that “we are all concerned about the future of the airport”.

Swakopmund's mayor Nehemia Salomon therefore let the council members vote. Five SWAPO town council members - and thus the majority - approved the decision.

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