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.
Through various initiatives, the NRZ is working towards the refurbishment of some locomotives, wagons, tankers and passenger coaches to boost its current capacity. The refurbishment and repair of locomotives and wagons is aimed at increasing NRZ’s fleet and enhance NRZ’s operational capacity. The NRZ is also strengthening wagon management structures at terminals, to facilitate effective and efficient utilization of the available wagon fleet and has also approached neighbouring Railway organisations to expeditiously offload and return empty wagons, so as to achieve quick turnaround of NRZ wagons.
It is pertinent to mention that as a way of enhancing operational efficiency, reducing transit times in the movement of commodities and achieving quick delivery of customers’ cargo, the NRZ has been working on enhancing methods of trains working on the main line to achieve greater efficiency. Express trains were introduced in order to enhance operational efficiency and reduce transit times in the movement of freight trains and achieve quick delivery of customer cargo. This service is aimed at reducing transit times to customer destinations, particularly from Beitbridge to Harare and Thompson Junction to Harare.
Meanwhile, NRZ has been working on the rehabilitation of the Railway infrastructure, and the removal of cautions (speed restrictions) system wide. So far the length of infrastructure under speed restrictions has been reduced from 420km to 285km. There are now 57 cautions remaining systemwide. Communication system for trains to communicate with control centers on the Bulawayo – Victoria Falls, Bulawayo – Harare and Gweru – Chicualacuala corridors was restored. Some of the infrastructure was installed through partnerships and other service providers in the communication industry, where infrastructure would be shared. GPS satellite tracking systems were also installed on mainline locomotives to help track and manage trains in section, in the absence of a signaling system. The organisation is geared to improve its service delivery to customers and is ready to accept all traffic on offer.
The NRZ has an established rail system that enables the country to develop its export markets, through lines to the east for Mozambican ports of Beira and Maputo; to the south, linking with Botswana and South Africa and to the north linking with Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola and Tanzania. Revitalized and transformed into a viable organisation offering high standards of service at competitive rates, the NRZ will be geared to transport all traffic on offer, in the country and in particular all essential commodities.
The NRZ is currently engaged in the movement of coal to the Bulawayo, Munyati and Harare Power stations, a move that is assisting the nation to fuel its industries. Some of the coal which the NRZ is moving is also destined for the export markets, as well as the farming and industrial sectors.
In addition, the NRZ also transports cement to the local and export markets among other commodities that are currently being moved every week such as, fertilizer, wheat, chrome ore, fuel and maize. In the lowveld the rail transporter also moves cane from Triangle and Chiredzi to the mills and raw sugar to export markets.
Customers may wish to know that most of the freight trains conveying vulnerable traffic are escorted by armed NRZ security personnel to their various destinations, throughout the country in order to minimize theft in transit and ensure safe arrival of customers’ cargo. The NRZ also moves some containerized traffic from South Africa and Mozambique, into the country.
The National Railways of Zimbabwe is not only striving to providing a unique service with style, but it must be “all things to all people” in serving the wide spectrum of the economy and the community. Its very many customers fall into various business sectors of the Zimbabwean economy as the backbone of the Nation’s transport industry that drives various sectors of the economy in support of the ZIMASSET. These are Energy and Mining, Agriculture and Industrial Sectors.
The Energy and Mining sector comprises all energy products and all minerals which account for a significant percent of the gross tonnage carried by rail. These commodities include coal and coke products, petrol, diesel, slag, chrome ore, granite and ferro alloys.
The agricultural sector is made up mainly of grains, cotton and tobacco and as readers may be aware Zimbabwe is the third largest exporter of flue-cured-tobacco in the world and the largest producer of cotton in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.
The industrial business sector is made up of all manufactured and partly manufactured goods, which do not fall into the other categories. However, this sector has intense competition from road transport, due to the door to door deliveries and the high-value nature of the traffic, which includes metal and wood products, cement and fertilizer, food stuff and stock feeds.
The NRZ is poised to grow by recapturing lost traffic, winning new customers, as well as satisfying their transport needs, although a major push is still needed to unleash its full potential. Making rail the first choice of moving freight and passengers in Zimbabwe and regional countries is the primary purpose of NRZ’s on-going transformation programme. In this process NRZ recognizes that a real change of focus is needed as meeting the demands of the market has become an urgent priority. At the same time the NRZ is aiming to meet new regional objectives and conquer new frontiers in the regional context.
The NRZ is also soliciting the support of private companies to participate in the PPP’s programme, in an effort meant to capacitate the organisation and enable it to play its key role of being the backborne of Zimbabwe’s transport industry that sustains the country’s economic recovery. Some companies have in the past participated in the same scheme which saw the organisation refurbishing some wagons and locomotives, through strategic partnership with these local companies. Currently we have some companies that are engaged in the PPP program to refurbish tankers and wagons, a move that will further enhance NRZ’s capacity as it strives to move all traffic on offer.
Government realizes the critical importance of NRZ in the transformation and development of the economy of Zimbabwe and continues to support its efforts to re-equip and re-capitalize the organisation in order to strengthen it and give it a competitive advantage.
The NRZ is currently negotiating with some financial institutions in order to raise money for its recapitalization programme.
Some proposals have been submitted to Government through the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development, and are under consideration.
The NRZ in its long term plan requires, about US$2 billion to be fully revitalized and transformed. In the short term the NRZ needs US$460 million to restore the infrastructure and equipment to acceptable levels.
The NRZ’s participated at the ZITF, Mine Entra and Harare Agricultural Show, as a clear demonstration of it’s preparedness in providing transport solutions to all sectors of the economy and beyond. This was also supported by our theme, “Thinking big, think NRZ – your ideal logistics partner in stimulating trade”. Furthermore, the NRZ also fully supports the ZIMASSET blue print which is aimed at enhancing economic growth and development in the country.