Govt must prioritise rail infrastructure revamp

HARARE - The Daily News reported in its Wednesday edition that the country’s railway company, the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) was using 70-year-old infrastructure, revealing how outdated its systems are.

The NRZ is one State-owned firm that has been struggling for survival for years and yet it has great potential as it could move large volumes of goods and passengers within as well as from outside our borders.

The resort by NRZ’s potential clients to road transportation has not been without reason. Operating on an obsolete signal and communication system, the NRZ’s coaches have been susceptible to accidents and unnecessary delays. 

Road transportation has also come at a huge cost. One of the country’s busiest roads — the Beitbridge-Masvingo-Harare-Nyamapanda Highway — is now in dire need of repair following years of use by large volumes of haulage, which have not been sympathetic to its surface.

Back in 2018, Zimbabwe took delivery of 13 locomotives, 34 passenger coaches, 200 wagons, all meant to for the revival of the parastatal under an agreement with the Diaspora Investment Development Group (DGIG)/Transnet Consortium. 

This phenomenal move did not get proportionate augmentation of the railway network, a development that would have made the investment’s impact discernible. Without a massive overhaul of the rail network, it will remain difficult for the NRZ to realise its worth, while the road network will continue to suffer as it will serve as the option in moving large volumes of heavy goods.

NRZ’s general manager has highlighted the poor state of the infrastructure the company is relying on saying they had to come up with speed restrictions as some of the measures to avert derailments.

And to imagine this is the same company which — soon after independence — introduced an electric-powered service from Dabuka — just outside Gweru — to the capital Harare. Today, there is nothing to show for this investment as small cables hang like discarded biltong on power pylons along the track. The bulk of which were vandalised under the NRZ’s and Zimbabweans’ watch.

There has to be seriousness on the part of government, as the major shareholder in NRZ, to lead efforts towards the revamping of the railway network. This will make all rail-related investments meaningful. 

Over the years, nothing has been happening towards the improvement of railway infrastructure, something positive for Zimbabwe’s agro-based economy, which is also buoyed by vast mineral deposits.

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