Zim’s railway system crumbling


Augustine Mukaro

ZIMBABWE’S railway system has been hit by a critical shortage of locomotives which threatens to bring transportation of bulk goods to a halt if a solution is not found s

oon.


The shortage comes amid reports that neighbouring countries’ railway companies are pulling out their services from Zimbabwe citing dangers posed by the country’s crumbling signalling and communications equipment.


Highly placed sources said National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) was operating with only 20% of the recommended rolling stock on its main lines.

“Only six electric locomotives out of a possible 30 are in a working condition,” a source said. “Only 10 out of the normally used 60 diesel locomotives for the main line are operating.”


In response to questions from the Zimbabwe Independent, NRZ corporate affairs manager Misheck Matanhire said his organisation requires a fleet of 150 different classes of locomotives for use in both its shunting and main-line operations.


“NRZ has made arrangements to hire Bulawayo-Beitbridge Railway locomotives and to utilise Spoornet locomotives to haul traffic from Bulawayo to Thompson Junction,” Matanhire said.


“The same arrangement was made with the Zambian Railways whose locomotives are ferrying traffic to Bulawayo, while Botswana Railways locomotives are working between Plumtree and Bulawayo. This arrangement has improved the NRZ’s current locomotives problems,” he said.


Matanhire conceded that his organisation was in dire need of forex.

“It is also worth noting that 95% of NRZ spares require hard currency as they are imported,” he said.


Matanhire said that NRZ was trying to source funds to acquire spare parts to repair its wagons, locomotives and coaches, as well as items for its signalling and telecommunications system.


Sources said Spoornet had reduced its traffic to Zimbabwe following a series of head-on collisions including the Dete train disaster in February that resulted in the deaths of more than 50 people. The accidents have been attributed to obsolete signalling equipment.