Windhoek - Namibia's transport minister on Tuesday welcomed the first five refurbished locomotives from South Africa to be used by the state's TransNamib enterprise.

“TransNamib last September embarked on a turn-around strategy approved by government and this includes locomotives,” Transport Minister Erkki Nghimtina said at the Windhoek station.

Last November, TransNamib inked a contract with South Africa's Transnet Engineering to add altogether 21 refurbished locomotives to Namibia's fleet of General Electric (GE) Class-33 locomotives.

They are refurbished in Transnet's workshops in Bloemfontein and Pretoria. The contract includes bridging finance fo approximately 200 million Namibian dollars for TransNamib for the locomotives.

About 31 Class-33 GE locomotive of TransNamib's own fleet will be refurbished in Windhoek with support from Transnet.

“All these efforts will push our current running fleet from 18

to over 50 locomotives,” said Hippy Tjivikua, acting CEO of TransNamib on Tuesday.

“Transnet Engineering also assists and supports TransNamib over the next five years with rolling stock operations and maintenance, to ensure sustainability in the railways for future economic growth of Namibia,” said Deon Struwig, chief financial officer of Transnet Engineering.

According to TransNamib board chairman Pieter Oosthuizen, billions were required to upgrade Namibia's total railway network with the aim to meet the SADC standards of 18.5 ton axle loads.

“An investment of about nine billion Namibian dollars would be required,” Oosthuizen said.

Last week, labour unions cried foul as the turnaround strategy entailed the retrenchment of nearly 1000 employees at TransNamib by April.

The current workforce stands at 1695 employees.

TransNamib said it would abandon its courier and road transport services to concentrate on its core business like bulk freight by rail and rail passenger services.