The Diaspora Investment Development Group (DIDG) and South Africa’s Transnet, is pressing ahead with revival of the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ), amid indications that four more class-34 locomotives will be delivered in the near future.
DIDG/Transnet won the $400 million tender to recapitalise NRZ and has already delivered seven locomotives and 151 wagons.
The 151 wagons have since been deployed and reportedly generating significant business for NRZ.
Of the seven locomotives launched by President Mnangagwa in February, three of them are class- 34 locomotives, which NRZ operators are familiar with.
DIDG executive director Mr Donovan Chimhandamba, told The Herald Business last week that the locomotives have since been deployed and are working.
Mr Chimhandamba said the other four locomotives are the newer class-43s, which NRZ operators are “not familiar with and have to have operator training”.
While training of NRZ operators is underway, DIDG is bringing in four more class -34 locomotives in the next few weeks to boost NRZ operations.
“As we speak, there are four additional class -34 locos are en-route to Zimbabwe . . . to add to the fleet that can be deployed immediately with no training to NRZ operators. Once cleared by Zimra, they will be deployed by NRZ. As per NRZ needs, we are going to be adding to this fleet to support NRZ increasing demand until we have operationalised the new concession operator, which we are busy with over the next few months,” said Mr Chimhandamba.
NRZ board chairman Mr Larry Mavhima, also confirmed that new locomotives were on the way but could not reveal the exact date of their arrival. However, expectations are that the locomotives could arrive in the next few weeks.
Transnet International Holdings CEO Mr Petrus Fusi, also confirmed in a separate interview that more locomotives would be delivered soon.
“The rolling stock commissioned in February is in good working condition and is currently generating revenue for NRZ.
“Transnet will also like to state that the second tranche of the locomotives is on its way to Zimbabwe,” said Mr Fusi.
Mr Mavhima said they require strong locomotives to enable them to move cargo, which contributes 97 percent to NRZ’s business.
The passenger business provides a measly 3 percent to NRZ operations.
“. . . many people have a misconception on where most of our business is. Our business is not in passenger rail, it is in freight rail; 97 percent of our business is in freight rail.
“So we start capacitating the freight section first. But this time around we started with seven but there will be another 27 coming . . .” said Mr Mavhima.
Before the sealing of the DIDG/ Transnet investment deal, NRZ was leasing locomotives from local firms.
Currently, NRZ is leasing four locomotives from companies such as Makomo and Grindrod.
Meanwhile, NRZ has deployed the new passenger coaches on the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls route, which is its busiest route.
Said Mr Mavhima: “Passenger trains are plying the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls every day; that is where you also find new coaches because that is our busiest route.
“We can’t send our coaches where there is no patronage. It is a well subscribed route.”
The revival of NRZ has become one of the major projects that the new administration believes will help turn around the economy.