WHEN MOTHER NATURE CAUSES HAVOC TO TRAIN OPERATIONS

The summer season is always a welcome time for Zimbabwe, whose economy is heavily reliant on agriculture.

Rains are copious during this time, providing an opportunity for farmers who rely on rain-fed agriculture to plant crops while the hot sun interspersed with rains is ideal for crop growth.

While summer rains are most welcome for the country, they always present a unique challenge to the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) as they cause weather induced disruptions, delays and cancellations of some of its train services during the course of the rainy season.

This summer season is no different from previous ones with train movement disruptions resulting in cancellations and delays of some trains causing inconveniences to passengers and customers.

During a hot summer’s day, railway tracks are susceptible to a phenomenon known as kick out. This is when heat from the sun expands the rail which then bends. As a train travels over the bent rail it derails.

Tracks are also vulnerable to wash aways during the rainy season. A wash away occur when heavy rains destroy a portion of the rail.

Both kick outs and wash aways are seasonal events which occur in the summer.

Kick outs are common between Bulawayo and Dabuka; Dabuka and Harare and also on the Somabhula-Rutenga corridor.

Train services are disrupted once there are kick outs and wash aways and resumption of service depends on the severity of the damage and time taken to repair the line.

Ballast (quarry stone) on railways is put to hold the rail in place with support from sleepers. However, some people herding cattle along railway lines are removing the ballast from place when they drive their livestock over the tracks.

This disturbance of ballast makes the tracks vulnerable to wash aways and people must always use designated level crossing points when crossing the rail to avoid tampering with ballast.

Since the start of the summer season, kickouts and wash aways have been reported on the NRZ system.

There have been more than six kickouts with repairs to tracks and wagons damaged by the resultant derailment costing the organisation a lot of money. In three of the incidences, almost seven kilometres of rail and more than 1 180 railway sleepers were damaged and had to be replaced.

The kickouts occurred at the peak of the summer hot season between 16 October and 31 December 2017.

The most serious incident of kickouts last year was on 31 December 2017, a goods train from Dabuka to Rutenga derailed after a kick out between Bannockburn and Laings near Zvishavane on the line to Rutenga.

The line was blocked for more than a week and the derailment resulted in the cancellation of trains carrying exports from Zimbabwe through Maputo Port in Mozambique while imports by train into Zimbabwe and Botswana, including diesel, were held at Rutenga while NRZ repaired the line.

However, incidents of kick outs and wash aways would be significantly reduced should the organisation’s recapitalisation process take shape.

The NRZ recapitalization exercise is expected to take shape this year as the parastatal and its prospective partner – Diaspora Investment Development Group (DIDG) / Transnet are expected to conclude the deal this first quarter.

The recapitalization process, which will cost $400million, will involve among others, the acquisition of rolling stock and the rehabilitation of the track to enable the NRZ to increase its capacity to move freight from 3 million tonnes to 6 million tonnes in the short term before reaching its designated capacity of 18 million tonnes in the long term.

 

While the NRZ unreservedly apologizes for its customers’ late arrival of goods, delays and other inconveniences, it is critical for these publics to understand and appreciate the various challenges the railways utility encounters season by season in its operations.

Despite all this, the NRZ once again would like to express its unflinching commitment to continue providing seamless, efficient, reliable, cost effective and safe transportation services to all its publics.

NRZ Deal- Prepare for new dispensation

NRZ Deal- prepare for new dispensation

NRZ is marking its 120 years of existence with renewed optimism and confidence that it will live for another century and beyond.

The recent decision by Cabinet to approve a deal brokered with Diaspora Investment Development Group/Transnet Consortium to inject fresh capital has infused a conviction that the future of the organisation is guaranteed.

Recapitalisation of the NRZ has been on the drawing board for years but it appears the dream to turn the parastatal into a viable profit making organisation is finally becoming a reality.

NRZ management and DIDG/Transnet are now involved in negotiations to tie loose ends before the deal is finalized.

When consummated, the deal will see NRZ operational capacity improving as it will have the resources to meet demand for its services from industry.

In the 1990s, the NRZ was moving between 10.5 million and 14 million tonnes a year.

Due to deteriorating infrastructure and failure to inject capital, freight volumes declined, affecting the organisation’s performance.

The NRZ system is designed to carry 18 million tonnes of freight a year but in 2016, the organisation carried only 2.7 million tonnes.

At the time when freight volumes were high, the parastatal had 240 locomotives comprising 49 steam, 161 diesel and 30 electric. The steam and electric locos have since been decommissioned while only 60 diesel locos are in service.

In terms of wagons, in June 1996, the NRZ had 10 799 wagons of different types but at present about 3 500 are in use. The rest are in need of repairs and refurbishment.

Ten percent of the track infrastructure (about 275km) is under temporary speed restrictions and has to be rehabilitated.

The $400m to be injected by investors will be used towards repair and refurbishment of infrastructure and equipment including some of the broken down locomotives, wagons and passengers coaches.

Locos which have reached the end of their service life will be overhauled to give them an additional 10 years of service.

Seven hundred and sixty eight wagons and 162 coaches are earmarked to be refurbished using part of the $400million.

In addition, the money will also be used to buy 24 new mainline locomotives and 10 shunt locomotives. The track will be rehabilitated to remove speed restrictions thus ensuring faster movement of goods and passengers.

Once the initial $400 million is injected, the drive towards operational capacity for the NRZ will start in earnest thus asserting the organisation to reclaim its position as the preferred mover of bulk commodities.

 

DIDG/Transnet Consortium was selected after a rigorous exercise which included a pre-bid conference attended by representatives of more than 80 local, regional and international companies.

Six companies were later shortlisted as having met the bid requirements with DIDG/Transnet consortium emerging the eventual winner.

 

Rail Transformation Underway

The NRZ is implementing an action programme that will alter the way Zimbabwe’s Railways do business, and prepare the organisation to face today’s challenges. It is pertinent to mention that the National Railways of Zimbabwe is a vital link for all sectors of the economy, as it serves the nation through its extensive rail network, stretching over 2 760 route kilometers of 1 067mm gauge track and is a bulk carrier of both freight and passengers.It is in the same vein that far-reaching changes are envisaged and tomorrow’s railways will focus more than ever before on meeting the demands and growing expectations of its customers. This is the essential element in a common vision shared by the NRZ Board, management, employees as well as its shareholder, the Government. A well run Railways will be efficient, extremely safe and kind to the environment.

 

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NRZ Concerned With The Increase In Rail/Road Level Crossing Accidents And Suicidal Cases

The National Railways of Zimbabwe regrets to advise that six (6) people were injured when a Nissan Caravan motor vehicle rammed onto a passenger train which was travelling from Chinhoyi to Harare at 0945 hours on Tuesday 24 March 2015 at Banket level crossing.  The injured people were ferried to Banket Hospital where they were treated and discharged.We have observed with concern, the disturbing and increasing incidences of rail/road level crossing accidents, as well as suicidal cases along the railway system countrywide in recent weeks and months.  It is saddening to note that the accidents continue to occur at rail/road level crossings and undesignated rail level crossings, despite the fact that all drivers of both light and heavy vehicles are aware of the need to exercise extreme caution, whenever they are approaching rail/road level crossings, throughout the country.

 

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