Gaborone: The Transport Hub was established to identify and coordinate transport projects and policy initiatives that will transform Botswana into a regional transportation centre. Several initiatives are being implemented to realise this goal, including: * completion in April 2011 of a feasibility study and detailed designs on the Kazungula Bridge, along with sourcing of funds for construction; * finalising a decision on the alignment of Trans-Kalahari Railway line with Namibia. It is anticipated the project will be awarded for construction first quarter of financial year 2012/2013.
* Securing a developer and operator for the Dry Port Facility in Walvis Bay, with the award of tenders expected by the end of this month.
* Completing Phase II of Sir Seretse Khama International Airport expansion; while the new Francistown Airport has already been completed.
* Extension of the Maun Airport runway which is scheduled for completion early next year.
The new Kasane terminal building which had been scheduled for completion by February 2011 had been delayed due to redesign, which now incorporates existing structures.
149. Madam Speaker, the aviation industry was especially hard hit by the global economic downturn, while its recovery has been slowed by rising fuel prices. Passenger numbers slipped during the fourth quarter of 2010 and the first quarter of 2011. In this context, a statutory financial audit of Air Botswana is in progress and preliminary indications are that the airline's losses will be even greater than the previous year's figure of P45 million. For some time Air Botswana has been plagued by a range of challenges reflecting poor governance structures and resulting performance. To move forward the Air Botswana Strategic Plan 2011 is now being implemented, which incorporates a new organisational structure.
150. The recent passage by Parliament of the Civil Aviation and Aviation Security Acts is another step forward. Subsidiary legislation to support both the safety and air services licensing of air transport has also been drafted. In an effort to attract additional air traffic, Government has negotiated Bilateral Air Services Agreements with 19 countries. In this respect we will continue to identify and prioritise countries that have airlines capable of starting operations into Botswana.
151. Madam Speaker, the implementation of the Botswana Railways' Turnaround Strategy continues. Initiatives to improve operational efficiencies and capacity are being undertaken under this strategy to ensure the organisation's sustained profitability. To meet the challenge aging rolling stock maintenance programs are now being executed with more attention to in-house efforts, with new maintenance facilities to be constructed in Mahalapye. Additional recently completed projects include:
* The rehabilitation of the Sua Pan Branch line and up-grading of the Selebi-Phikwe yard;
* Morupule B Rail Spur for transportation of lime and the Lobatse Clay Works Rail Spur for transportation of bricks; and
* Palapye Glass Factory Rail Spur for transportation of silica sand and soda ash.
152. Gaborone Container Terminal (Gabcon) continues to be a success, having recorded a net profit of P7 million during the last financial year. The company has constructed another container terminal in Palapye to facilitate containerised cargo in the central region, which is now operational. The Francistown Dry Port will also soon be managed by Gabcon under a management contract with Botswana Railways.
153. BR Properties whose mandate is to manage and exploit Botswana Railways properties along commercial lines as a subsidiary company is now on its third year of operation. Last year the subsidiary started a Retail Development Project in Gaborone in partnership with private investors with a capital outlay of P350 million, which opened its doors last month. The project is expected to yield an annual turnover of P47 million.
154. Madam Speaker, currently there are over 400,000 registered motor vehicles on our roads, of which just over 127 thousand (127,309) have been registered since 2008, including 27 thousand (26,925) already licensed since the beginning of this year. As a Government we therefore have little choice but to devote considerable resources to the construction and maintenance of our Public Highway Network. From April 2011, the length of the network increased significantly from about 9000km to 19,000km due to takeover of roads previously under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Local Government.
155. Meanwhile the Roads Department continues to oversee the construction of infrastructure. Completed projects since the last financial year include the Mahalapye - Kalamare, and Ngoma - Kachikau roads, while construction is on-going on the Gaborone - Tlokweng Border Post, Gaborone - Metsimotlhabe, Francistown - Ramokgwebana, Nata - Pandamatenga, and Sowa junction - Sua Pan routes.
156. In order to alleviate congestion currently experienced at the Kazungula Border crossing, Government has procured a ferry boat to augment the two boats already operated by Zambia. Government is also in the process of upgrading the ferry service across the Okavango River at Mohembo.
* Extracted from: STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY Lt. GEN. SERETSE KHAMA IAN KHAMA PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF BOTSWANA TO THE THIRD SESSION OF THE TENTH PARLIAMENT "BOTSWANA FIRST" 7th November 2011, GABORONE. The full speech can be accessed here.