Transport in Zambia

From Chalo Chatu, Zambia online encyclopedia

Railways in Zambia

Total: 2,157 km (2008)

Zambia Rail Network Map

Railtracker (ACIS/UNCTAD) Zambia Railway Network Diagram

Principal lines

Notable Branch lines

  • Maamba Colliery Railway, Choma to Masuka, built to carry coal.
  • The Mulobezi Railway (also known as Zambezi Sawmills Railway) is a narrow gauge line constructed to carry timber from Mulobezi to Livingstone. Has been reported at various times as defunct, currently listed in Railtracker (see 'Railway Network Map' below) but operating status not confirmed.
  • Mulungushi Commuter Line, later Njanji Commuter Line managed by ZRL, operated from 1991 to 1998 in Lusaka from the Chilenje-Libala to George townships (16 km); bids invited by the privatisiation board in September 2005 for re-opening it.

Railway links with adjacent countries

  • Democratic Republic of the Congo DR Congo - yes, Ndola to Sakania then Lubumbashi - 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in), freight only. The current operating status of Chililabombwe-DR Congo link not known.
  • Tanzania Tanzania - yes, from Kapiri Mposhi, border crossing at Nakonde, Zambia, to Dar es Salaam, TAZARA railway, passenger and freight - 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in)
  • Malawi Malawi - Chipata- Mchinji new link opened to traffic in 2010.
  • Mozambique Mozambique - no direct link, but indirectly to Beira and Maputo via Zimbabwe (no continuous passenger services).
  • Zimbabwe Zimbabwe - yes, from Livingstone via the Victoria Falls Bridge to Bulawayo, freight only.
  • Botswana Botswana - no direct link, indirectly via Zimbabwe (no continuous passenger services).
  • Namibia Namibia - no direct link.
  • Angola Angola - no direct link - but indirectly via DR Congo to Benguela on the Benguela Railway - same gauge 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in), while the railway was inoperable for many years because of the Angolan Civil War, it has been recently reconstructed.

Proposed extensions



Zambia's North-West Extension - 8 February 2006 - Preparatory work is going forward on Zambia's proposed new north-western extension railway from Chingola to Solwezi, estimated to cost about $US235m. The area has excellent mining potential which cannot be exploited effectively without rail facilities. The route has been surveyed and the implications of compensating land owners are being worked out.[3]

Australian and American interests are examining the project and the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) may help with finance. The United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), another prospective source of funding, is also looking at the scheme. Hopes have been expressed that the new line might eventually be extended to Mwinilunga and even to join Angola's Benguela Railway without relying on the DR Congo link, to restore what was until the 1970s Zambia's main route for exporting copper and other metals. In April 2012, according to newspaper reports, the Zambian government "has issued a permit to North-West Railway Company (NWR) for construction of the 554km railway line from Chingola to Jimbe on the Angolan border".[4] [5]

The Angolan transport ministry plans to build a line branching off the Benguela Railway at Luacano and entering Zambia from Macango,[6] thus avoiding DR Congo territory. The establishment of this direct link was also subject of talks during the visit of an Angolan delegation to Lusaka in May 2012. "The Benguela Railway will improve relations between the two countries as well as transportation of goods. It is encouraging that the railway on the Angolan side will reach the border by next year," said Keith Mukata, Zambian Deputy Minister for Commerce, Trade, and Industry.[7]



Principal towns served by rail

Lusaka - capital Kabwe Ndola
Kafue Kitwe Chililabombwe — freight only
Mazabuka Kapiri Mposhi Luanshya — freight only
Choma Mpika Chingola — freight only
Livingstone Kasama Mufulira — freight only
Mulobezi Ndola

Roads in Zambia

Total: 91,440 km (2001)
Paved: 20,117 km (2001) of which 6,779 km are trunk or main routes.
Unpaved: 71,323 km (2001) (Some of the unpaved highways are graded laterite roads.)

In the 1970s Zambia had one of the best highway networks in sub-Saharan Africa. In 1991 it was estimated by the National Road Fund Agency (NRFA) that 80 percent of the road network had deteriorated and out of total road assets valued at US$2.3 billion, US$400 million had been lost due to neglected maintenance. The government introduced a road fund levy on fuel and that together with international aid has improved the highway network. In 2004 the NRFA rated 57% of paved roads in good condition, 22% in fair condition and 21% in poor condition.

NRFA Zambia Road Network Map showing Road condition and level of use in December 2003

List of principal highways and river crossings

Roads are listed by common name, if any, or main towns served. Major bridges or ferries given in italics. All the listed roads are paved except the Congo Pedicle in DR Congo territory. Note that some share sections, e.g. Great North Road & Tanzam highway between Kapiri Mposhi and Mpika. Usage levels are taken from the NRFA map linked above.


  • Lusaka-Copperbelt Road (The most-used inter-provincial highway)
  • Ndola-Kitwe Road (4-lane divided highway — the most used inter-city highway)





Trade Corridors used by Zambia

As a landlocked minerals producer, Trade Corridors are vital to Zambia. In Zambia's case these are road and/or rail routes which cross international borders to ports and which are the subject of international agreements on planning, use and management. They are not separate from the road and rail networks listed above, but are entities superimposed on those networks for strategic economic and trade development. They are:

  1. Southern Corridor: to Durban Port via Johannesburg, South Africa via Zimbabwe (road or rail) or Botswana (road).
  2. Maputo Corridor: As for (1) but rail or road from Johannesburg to Maputo Port, Mozambique.
  3. Walvis Bay Corridor: Road via Livingstone/Sesheke/Katima Mulilo to Walvis Bay Port, Namibia.
  4. Beira Corridor: Road to Harare or rail to Bulawayo, then rail via Mutare to Beira, Mozambique.
  5. Nacala Corridor: road to Lilongwe then rail to Nacala, Mozambique.
  6. Tazara Corridor: road or rail via Kapiri Mposhi to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
  7. Lobito Corridor: rail via DR Congo to Lobito Bay, Angola (not currently operational, depends on Benguala Railway re-opening).

Source: Regional Transport Infrastructure Development in South Africa, JBIC Review No. 2, November 2000.

Corridors 1 to 6 may also be used by southeastern DR Congo though Zambia.

Water Transport in Zambia

Although none of the major urban centres are located on usable waterways, Zambia is a relatively well-watered country but is mainly flat, meaning there are many navigable rivers, lakes and channels through swamps, which together reach a large proportion of the rural population. These offer a minimum-maintenance rural transport alternative. In the cases of Bangweulu and Mweru Wantipa in particular, there are permanent and seasonal fishing communities for whom the only access is by boat or canoe.

Main systems

Air Transport in Zambia

Zambia has an 'open skies' policy since the state-owned national carrier failed. Before its demise, Zambian Airways was the only Zambia-based scheduled carrier. As of November 2009, there are only a number of air charter companies serving the tourism and mining industries and government and aid sectors, and some of these run scheduled services from time to time.

Other international airlines These change frequently, the main routes serviced by international airlines are:

Airports - With Paved Runways

total: 8
over 3,047 m: 1
2,438 to 3,047 m: 3
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2012)

Airfields - with unpaved runways

total: 80
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 5
914 to 1,523 m: 53
under 914 m: 21 (2012)


Crude oil 771 km (2010)


See also


  1. "Chipata Railway", Railways Africa, Friday, 2 November 2007.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Railways Africa - EXTENDING BEYOND CHIPATA
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  6. Details of lines to be rehabilitated and newly built at the web site of the Angolan transport ministry
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