NRZ operating at 8pct of capacity, but parastatal can be revived – UK trade mission

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BULAWAYO – National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) is operating at just under eight percent of capacity and is insolvent, but could be resuscitated to become a significant national asset if it receives significant investment, a report by a British trade mission has shown.

The stricken parastatal is currently transporting six million tonnes of goods per annum out of 80 million tonnes the system was designed for due to a depressed market and reduced capacity. In  2013, it moved 3,6 million tonnes of goods against a target of 6 million tonnes. Comparatively, in 1998, the NRZ moved 18 million tonnes.

It is saddled with a $144 million debt raked up since dollarisation in 2009 and registered a $17 million deficit in the first five months of 2014, generating $44 million revenue against $61 million expenditure.

NRZ chief engineer (infrastructure) Phillip Chifamba told  the United Kingdom trade mission which visited the country last month, whose report was released last week, that NRZ has a fleet of 168 locomotives, 70 of which were serviceable, although all are reaching the end of their life spans.

He said the bulk of the fleet was over 30 years old but there was a plan to do ‘stop gap’ rehabilitation of locomotives which will cost  approximately $750,000 per unit until finance is available to buy a new fleet.

“NRZ has around 8,000 wagons, but only 50 percent of these are in working order. NRZ’s system was designed to transport 80 million tonnes per annum; it is currently moving only six million tonnes, due to a depressed market, and its reduced capacity,” he said.

The report noted that NRZ could be a vital national asset if it received support from the international community. Investment, particularly from the private sector, is highly unlikely as NRZ is ‘not quite bankable,’ the report noted.

Over the past 10 years, the parastatal has received very little funding from the state and has been able to undertake very few upgrade or rehabilitation projects.

Only 151 out of 309 passenger coaches are functional. The report also noted that 385.5km of rail track needs to be rehabilitated across the network while the signalling and telecommunications network is in urgent need of repair.

The NRZ superintends about 3,000 kilometres of rail, with about a 10th of that under speed restriction due to the poor state of the infrastructure, while the electrified Gweru-Harare link has been decommissioned after vandalism and cable theft.

Government has said it was close to securing a $460 loan from the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) which will be used primarily to support infrastructure and rolling stock.(The Source)

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