THE National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) wants government to prescribe that certain bulk commodities be transported by rail, among a raft of measures to revive the ailing parastatal.
BY BLESSED MHLANGA
The move would come after NRZ has been recapitalised, board chairperson Larry Mavhima told NewsDay.
The rail parastatal is seeking $635 million from its shareholder, the government.
“We propose ring-fencing of certain commodities, that they can only be moved by rail, the commodities are your big granite stones, which weigh around 30 tonnes each, there is no need to have it transported by road,” he said.
“Imagine the fuel used and the damage to the roads. Your lumpy chrome ore, which is becoming big business for us, also has to be ring-fenced.”
Mavhima said there was need for a massive investment into NRZ’s infrastructure, which has made rail transport unreliable.
“We don’t want a prescriptive process. NRZ can only request those favours from government once we prove we are efficient. That particular one can only come after recapitalisation and that will strengthen the NRZ and reduce the cost of transport,” he said.
Mavhima said NRZ has a total of 2 760km of railway track.
About 10% of this track is under caution, where trains approaching those sections are forced to slow down to nearly below 10km per hour or else they risk derailing.
“In certain areas, they [trains] have to slow down because the track is no longer stable. If trains go beyond 10km, there is what we call a kick out or derailment. It has to be repaired for us to maintain a constant speed so that we improve turnaround time,” he said.
NRZ faces challenges with its centralised train control system, which has gone down making it difficult for train drivers to work.
“Before, it was done automatically by just pressing a button. Now we have a system where a train driver and his assistant have to get down and do it manually, this takes time and affects turnaround time,” he said.
Mavhima said NRZ had also invested $2 million in communications systems after most of their communications infrastructure went down.
“This investment has helped in terms to reduced accidents, derailments and turnaround time, but $50m is needed to cover the whole system,” he said.
In his 2017 National Budget, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa said government would continue to scout for a strategic partner for NRZ, despite the fact that a comprehensive capitalisation programme for the parastatal has remained elusive.
He said an allocation of $3 million had been set aside for the rehabilitation of locomotives and wagons, track infrastructure as well as procurement of workshop equipment.