LOCOMOTIVES, wagons and coaches delivered by the Diaspora Infrastructure Development Group (DIDG) to National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ), under a $400 million deal, are on lease while new ones are expected in the near future, Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister Jorum Gumbo has said.
Minister Gumbo said this last week while responding to enquiries by The Herald Business on how the equipment supplied by DIDG would be deployed at a time when other NRZ critical infrastructure was not in the best condition to optimise benefits from the capacity the wagons and locos have created.
He said the equipment that has been delivered thus far and the others set to be delivered in the next few weeks were part of the initial phase of the recapitalisation of NRZ, but the whole programme also covered areas such as track, signalling and communication system rehabilitation, among others.
The consignment so far delivered by DIDG comprises seven locomotives, 108 wagons and eight passenger coaches, procured from South Africa.
An additional 92 wagons and six more locomotives would be delivered by the end of this month.
DIDG is a company founded and duly incorporated in Zimbabwe and South Africa and is spearheaded largely by locals based in that country. The long term plan is to expand shareholding to all Zimbabweans, including those in the diaspora.
NRZ Board chairperson Larry Mavima said last week that the entire phase 1 recapitalisation package entailed 10 locomotives, three shunt locomotives, 34 passenger coaches and 200 wagons. This will significantly enhance NRZ’s capacity.
NRZ said early this month that it was targeting to move 4 million tonnes in 2018, up 25 percent on last year, on the back of service level agreements signed with key customers last year. But DIDG said the new equipment will double the capacity.
Last year, the rail company transported 3,2 million tonnes from a target of 3,5 million tonnes.
Minister Gumbo said the equipment delivered was on lease and fell under phase 1 of the NRZ recapitalisation programme, under a multi-million deal to get NRZ started, new equipment was being manufactured and will be delivered in the next phase of the deal to be scaled up to $1,7 billion.
“We cannot do everything in one day. A lot of things will be done at NRZ, including replacing the slippers and signalling system. We are going to do it in phases, this is the first stage.
“We gave a tender to DIDG under a $400 million deal for first stage, but we want to scale it up to $1,7 billion,” Minister Gumbo said.
Under the current initiative, a total of $128 million will be committed to refurbishing or upgrading the rail tracks while another $72 million will be spent on revamping the communication signals.
“These ones (delivered) are on lease, we want new wagons and locomotives, we brought these so that we can start doing work,” the minister said without, however, specifying timelines.
He also did not say where the new equipment will be made.
NRZ has about 255km of track that needs to be rehabilitated and this is spread across the country over 2,760km (per way). It is targeting this to be rolled out over three years
The capacity of NRZ had been severely undermined by the obsolete equipment and broken down infrastructure, which resulted in service levels declining from handling 18 million tonnes per annum in 1998 to current levels of 2 million tonnes.
Government contends that NRZ should play a key role of connecting major economic centres in and outside 23 the country in transporting of bulk raw materials, finished goods as well as passengers.
The rail carrier had 168 locomotives, but only 64 of these were serviceable while 3 467 out of 7 255 wagons were usable.
At its peak NRZ moved about 18 million tonnes per annum while it employed over 20 000 workers, a pale shadow of its present self.