BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
THE Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)’s railway giant, Societe Nationale des chemins de fer du Congo (SNCC), yesterday toured National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) facilities to assess how the two firms could enhance their transportation systems.
Officials said SNCC was keen on refurbishing NRZ’s high-sided wagons to bolster bulk cargo shipment between Harare and Kinshasa.
High-sided wagons have a level floor and solid sides with at least one door on each side.
They are mainly used for transporting bulk goods, such as coal, scrap, steel and wood.
Official statistics showed that NRZ has 3 626 high-sided wagons.
Of these, only 2 314 are currently in service, while those out of operation are vacuum-braked wagons that are in a poor condition. Only 31 of these wagons received in 2016 have dual braking systems, which are acceptable in some of the region’s key economies.
“DRC will choose from these, the ones they will supply spares and shall be dedicated to ferrying coal to DRC and from DRC identified traffic destined for Zimbabwe and beyond,” NRZ acting spokesperson Martin Banda said.
The high-level delegation arrived in Zimbabwe on Sunday, headed by SNCC’s technical director David Shimbi Lubanga, wagons manager Ngoy Wa Ngoy and business development manager Kubelwa Ilunga.
In a statement yesterday, Banda said officials from SNCC were using the visit to cement and enhance co-operation between the two railway companies.
Banda said the visit came hard on the heels of the signing of a memorandum of agreement between NRZ general manager Respina Zinyanduko and SNCC director of operations Marc Manyanga Ndambo in Bulawayo last month.
“As Southern African Railway Association members or bloc, it has been realised that co-operation and collaboration between regional rail companies is important as they are facing stiff competition from road competition,” he said.
“This has invoked the desire to promote the transformation of each country’s and regional economy through provision of innovative, seamless, reliable and cost-effective logistics solutions for goods and passengers.”
“Indeed, the railway is reorganising itself to become competitive and despite stiff competition, railway as a mode of transport is there to stay,” he said.
Banda said there was no other technology that was about to replace the railway transportation system in any economy.
“The tour is, therefore, a follow-up to assess the state of the 200 NRZ high-sided wagons which, under the agreement, the NRZ will, in partnership with SNCC, refurbish in order to ferry coal from Hwange in Zimbabwe to Kolwezi in the DRC while exploring ways to increase rail traffic between the two corridors,” he said.
During the week-long tour, Banda said the two rail giants’ senior officials would undertake on-the-spot inspection of the NRZ rolling stock, workshops, marshalling yards and proffer strategies on lobbying their respective governments to support their national transportation masterplans that define cargo for rail and for road.
“The use of rail to carry bulky cargo will translate into several benefits that include reduction in road traffic accidents and deaths, less damage to the national road network caused by haulage trucks carrying cargo ideal for rail transport and a realisation of the cost effectiveness of moving both bulk raw materials and finished products with one unit train load being equivalent to 33 road trucks, hence less salary cost for and carbon emissions into the environment and low fuel consumption and resultantly saving in foreign currency and benefiting downstream industries and the men and women on the streets,” he said.
Banda said NRZ was undertaking these initiatives to build its capacity, develop export markets and strengthen economic partnership agreements. He said the tour by SNCC officials was in line with that strategy.