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Rail sector to be opened up

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Plans by the government to open up the rail sector to private players are at an advanced stage as principles to the Bill have been drafted and are ready to be presented to Cabinet, a senior government official said.

Transport, Communications and Infrastructure Development minister Nicholas Goche said on Wednesday in Bulawayo he was ready to present the Bill to Cabinet.

“I have already compiled the principles of the Bill that would do that (opening the rail sector) and soon I will present them to Cabinet,” said Goche.

“We are separating the regulatory function of National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ). Right now NRZ is both a regulator and a player. We need to take away the regulatory functions and place them elsewhere. Other players will come in. The regulator will be tasked with ensuring the playing field is level.”

Goche could, however, not give timeframes as to when he would present the Bill to Cabinet.

Under the 2010-2015 Medium Term-Plan (MTP), which the government is using to benchmark economic recovery, it was suggested current regulatory policies governing railways be reviewed in a move that could bring competition to the loss-making NRZ.

The move would end the ailing company’s monopoly, which it has been enjoying for decades despite facing numerous challenges.

MTP proposes a massive rehabilitation of all railway infrastructure paralysed by obsolete communication systems, worn-out rail lines and the theft of more than three-quarters of copper wire lines, which has effectively crippled the signal and communication systems across the country.

Zimbabwe’s rail network, once a hub of the regional transport network, stretches for 3 077km. So dilapidated is the network now that the World Bank in December recommended the closure of some lines.

In November last year, Goche told parliamentarians that the government had an option to put on concession some sections of the railway tracks to restore viability.

He said a policy was being put in place to achieve that while a body to operate the infrastructure could also be set up to allow participation of more players for a fee.

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