Commuters applaud new train service The upgrade is needed on the commuter trains, since 1940s and 1950s rolling stock will not last forever, and the multiple units with their greater flexibility seem even more desirable on these routes. 

Ivan Zhakata
Herald Correspondent
The new Harare commuter train services run by Zupco and the National Railways of Zimbabwe started yesterday afternoon on the Mufakose route, with those trying it out given a free test ride.

The Ruwa route starts today and the third service, the Tynwald route, starts on Monday next week.

Large crowds thronged Harare railway station to test the Mufakose route.

As advertised, the train stopped at Lever Brothers, Lochinvar and Kambuzuma, dropping off passengers at the stations where Zupco buses and kombis were waiting to take them to their final destinations.

The trains have 10 coaches each and a carrying capacity of 100 passengers per coach. This means that one train has a carrying capacity of 1 000 passengers on each trip, roughly the equivalent of 15 or more buses with standing passengers still banned.

According to the time table, the train leaves town to Mufakose at 5:15am and arrives there at 6:10am, loads passengers before leaving for the city centre at 6:25am and arriving at 7:20am, enough time for workers to get to their places of business before 8am.

In the evening, the train leaves the city centre at 5:30pm and arrives in Mufakose at 6:15pm, then leaves Mufakose at 6:30pm and arrives in town at 7:20pm.

A commuter, Israel Mahwada said he was excited by the introduction of trains as they will help in reducing transport woes in the city centre.

“I think this service will help us because a train carries more people compared to buses and kombis,” he said.

Added Mahwada: “This will make people travel in time without delays due to congestion. What I do not know is that as something which has just started, is it going to be sustainable going forward? For now, this service will help us a lot in getting home in time without delays.”

Another commuter, Kudakwashe Chimutanda of Budiriro was worried about the connecting bus services. Zupco has announced that buses will be available at the stopping points. Budiriro is served by the Mufakose route, the railway line running between the two suburbs.

While Chimutanda was enthusiastic, he wanted Zupco to continue having buses in both directions at each station, and to keep its promise of a single $60 ticket for the train and connecting bus.

Another commuter, Admire Mawarura, said the reintroduction of trains was good as it was cheaper and efficient.

“This initiative is good because currently, due to economic challenges, some people are struggling to make ends meet and the train is cheaper and safer so it is much better for us. It reduces congestion in town and it also shows that there is development happening in the country,” he said.

Prosper Chirimerime from Budiriro, who is a student at Masasa Industrial Training College, echoed the same sentiments and said it was a safer way of travelling.

“I think this arrangement is okay and it will help us. I am a scholar and when I want to go home I will not have challenges of going to the bus stop where there will be long queues. Trains will help us to move safely and I will be home in time so I think it is a good initiative.”

Mazvita Tegwe also said the move was helpful as trains were not affected by traffic jams and were safer than vehicles.

“I think it is a better way of commuting and trains carry large numbers of people so no one will be left behind,” she said.

Panashe Marambanyika said: “I am very excited today because, Zupco buses could not ferry us in time as they will be waiting to be full unlike these trains which have a timetable to adhere to. Zupco buses and kombis are not enough and you would find that during peak hours there will be chaos from people who would want to go home so I think this is a good idea. The coming of trains will go a long way in solving our transport challenges.”

Local Government and Public Works Minister July Moyo, who is also the acting Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development, speaking at the launch of the train services said he was happy with the partnership between NRZ and Zupco.

“Government said let us have one organisation which will be transporting people, operating on a time table for the convenience of the commuters. We want our system in city centres to be organised and back to normal where the system relies on determined time tables.

“In Harare Metropolitan area, Zupco has over 457 bus stops. Those are the ones which have been there but I understand they have been increased. I implore commuters that when they reach the bus stops, they must know the time a bus is coming to pick them up so that they do not get stranded. That is the same with these train services,” he said.

Minister Moyo implored the commuters to embrace this new initiative so as to reduce congestion in the city centre.

Zupco chief executive officer Mr Everisto Mudangwa encouraged commuters to embrace the Government’s efforts to decongest the city.

“The ticket which one pays for boarding a train in town is the same ticket they will use to board a Zupco bus or kombi when the train arrives in Mufakose so that there will be no double payment of bus fares. Our train fare is the same as the bus fare.

“There is also an added advantage that this train is express. When you board from the city to the suburbs, it does not stop at undesignated stations along the way so it makes it easier to be transported,” he said.

NRZ manager for eastern area Mr Joshua Mhandire echoed the same sentiments and said the NRZ was arranging similar services in other cities.

“We have managed to organise this maiden run on a short notice. Passenger rail services were suspended in March 2020 due to Covid-19. We will be arranging similar services in other towns for the convenience of the passengers,” he said.

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