Revival of National Railways of Zimbabwe comes as one of key economic deliverables that will set many companies on a recovery trajectory as it has potential to significantly lower heavy industries’ transport costs, Confederation of Zimbabwe Industry (CZI) Bulawayo chapter president Joseph Gunda has said.
President Mnangagwa commissioned a consignment of 108 wagons, 13 locomotives and 34 passenger coaches for the NRZ last week as the rail firm remains a critical economic enabler given its ability to haul bulk industrial goods at lower cost.
The NRZ rehabilitation is being done under a $400 million deal by the Diaspora Infrastructure Development Group (DIDG) and South Africa’s Transnet under a lease agreement. Mr Gunda said in written responses that the revival of NRZ is an answer to industries that have been calling for a cheap, efficient and sustainable transport system.
“The recent delivery and commissioning of 13 locomotives, 200 wagons and 34 coaches being leased by NRZ from Transnet is a welcome move, which industry hopes will mark the recapitalisation and modernisation of our rail network with the ultimate benefit of reducing our transportation costs that will enhance the country’s competitiveness. This development, I strongly believe, will go a long way in seeing the city regain its status as the country’s industrial hub.
“In our latest edition of our Manufacturing Sector Survey, we asked industry which infrastructure is impacting their business and 45 percent of the respondents indicated that roads that are in bad state of repair are negatively affecting their business. In the survey, 29 percent indicated that rail infrastructure, or lack thereof, has affected their businesses negatively,” he said.
Due to the dilapidation and inefficiency of NRZ, most companies have in the past resorted to using road as their mode of transportation of goods, which not an ideal situation.
Said Mr Gunda: “The extensive use of our road for commercial transportation, has contributed largely to the deterioration of our existing and even recently resuscitated road infrastructure. We have been asking government to prioritise rail upgrade due to its obvious ability to lower the costs of transportation, creation of employment opportunities and opportunity to be the regional rail transport hub.”
Government has embarked on a massive road rehabilitation and upgrading exercise and has already completed the Plumtree-Harare-Mutare Highway at a cost of $206 million. Group Five, a South African firm executed the project.
Plans are underway to dualise Beitbridge- Harare -Chirundu Highway at a cost of $1 billion under a contract won by Geiger International. However, the Plumtree-Harare-Mutare Road has already developed some potholes with heavy rain partly blamed for the damage.