THE National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) has approached government for financial support to procure 41 locomotives, 300 wagons and 300 coaches as part of its turnaround strategy.
BY SILAS NKALA
This was revealed last Friday by Transport minister Joel Biggie Matiza in Bulawayo during the commissioning of the NRZ Railway Museum as a national tourism development site, where he also said most locomotives, wagons and coaches are more than a decade old.
“The NRZ has suffered in terms of spares for the locomotives, most of which are imported, and yet sanctions have not spared the parastatal as its locomotives are originally from countries that imposed sanctions on us like America and Canada,” Matiza said.
“It is in this light that the new NRZ management has requested the government to support the NRZ drive to get 41 locomotives, 300 wagons and 300 coaches to improve the parastatal’s capacity so that it breaks even,” he said.
Matiza said the NRZ should be capacitated in order to play its role in the economy and transport bulk goods which are often transported by road due to capacity problems at the rail company.
He said the NRZ last bought locomotives in 1992, and coaches in 1997. As a result, Matiza said the parastatal had resorted to hiring equipment and rehabilitating old wagons and coaches.
The Transport minister also disclosed that the NRZ had accumulated huge debts due to decreased capacity levels which had seen the organisation reducing its workforce, as well as sharp reduction in tonnage from a high of 14 million tonnes in 1998 to a low of 2,7 million tonnes annually.
“At present the entire railway industry in the country needs a concerted rehabilitation on track. While all over the world passenger train services are not profitable, the NRZ believes if the government supports its initiatives especially around commuter and intercity trains, it can find ways of breaking even especially by balancing the resources, vis-à-vis the service,” Matiza said.
“We request the government to support the passenger train services project with 300 state of the art coaches that can signal our drive towards government’s vision 2030 expectations.”
He said the NRZ was struggling to attract both long-term and short-term capital and was facing a huge debt burden which he said had literally put it in an insolvency state.
He appealed to the government to instil confidence in the NRZ through a Debt Assumption Bill to ensure that it focuses on an upward trajectory.
The Transport minister lauded the NRZ board led by Mike Dinha and the new general manager Joseph Mashika, saying they had worked hard to turn around the parastatal.
“Since we started our restructuring at NRZ this new team has set the organisation on a positive trajectory focused on achieving the government’s vision 2030,” Matiza said.
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