NRZ TO HOST REGIONAL RAILWAY CHIEF EXECUTIVES

 The National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) is this week hosting chief executives of railway companies in the Southern Africa region, at the 2018 first board meeting of the Southern Africa Railways Association (SARA).

 

The board meeting will be held in Harare on Wednesday 20 June 2018, at the Monomotapa Crowne Plaza Hotel. The Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development Dr Joram Gumbo (MP) is expected to officially open the board meeting.

 

NRZ is expected to ascend to the SARA presidency at the board meeting.  Leadership of SARA is based on rotational selection of SARA President and Vice President on yearly basis, based on the criteria set in the SARA Constitution. The NRZ General Manager, Engineer Lewis Mukwada, is expected to be nominated as the SARA president, taking over from Mr Christopher Musonda, the CEO of Zambia Railways Limited.

 

The Zimbabwe rail giant is currently deputizing the incumbent- Zambia Railways Limited. It is also expected that the Beitbridge Bulawayo Railway (BBR) will also ascend into the SARA presidium as deputy president.

 

SARA, which has its headquarters in Harare, has three categories of members of the Association.  The categories are full members who are railways in SADC, associate members who are allied to railway industry and special members who are organizations or groups with vested interest in the railway industry.

 

SARA was formed in April 1996 in line with the SADC Protocol on Transport, Communications and Meteorology (PTCM), Article 13.13 which stipulated the formation of Regional Associations for each transport mode.

 

SARA was originally formed to provide the SADC railways with a strong lobbying platform to advocate for fair surface transport competition by “levelling of the playing field” between road and rail in terms of policy and regulations.

 

SARA’s activities now extend beyond coordination, lobbying and advocacy to initiating and playing a leading role in the implementation of regional projects for the benefit of regional railways.

 

Besides board meetings, SARA members also converge during SARA conferences which offer a mixed package of presentations, exhibitions, gala dinners, golf days and immense opportunities for networking and sharing of ideas. These conferences are held in May every year and the last conference was held in South Africa from 23 to 25 May 2018.

NRZ geared for significant transformation

THE National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) is on the verge of a new and prosperous era as it focuses on a new trajectory of recapitalisation.

The NRZ has been tasked by the Government to ensure the successful implementation of the $400 million recapitalisation project which is being undertaken in conjunction with investment partners- Diaspora Infrastructure Development Group (DIDG)/ Transnet Consortium.

A deal is expected to be signed at the end of June 2018.

After more than a decade of trying to source capital to replace aging equipment without success, the agreement with DIDG/Transnet presents an opportunity for NRZ to rise again to be the giant it was in the 1990s.

The onerous task to ensure a once-again prosperous NRZ is back on course is on Eng. Mukwada and his management team’s shoulders  as the organisation plots the way out of the woods to once again enable the country’s economy to thrive.

As an initial step towards the implementation of the recapitalisation project, the NRZ is leasing 13 locomotives, 200 wagons and seven locomotives from South African rail utility, Transnet, as part of the agreement with the DGIG/ Transnet Consortium.

The equipment is already making an impact on NRZ operations and its customers.

Stockpiles of chrome meant for export are being reduced as all the 200 wagons have been put to dedicated use for Chrome exports from the Zimbabwe Iron and Mining Company (Zimasco) Kildonan in Mashonaland Central and Zimasco Kwekwe to Maputo.

Implementation of the recapitalisation deal will mean NRZ will be able to gradually increase its freight tonnages from the current three million tonnes a year to its design capacity of 18 million tonnes a year.

Moving more goods by rail will have a direct impact on the economy. More companies producing bulk goods will be able to use rail which is cheaper than road transportation and the savings will be passed on to consumers in the form of reduced prices of goods.

In December 2017, the NRZ commissioned a 34.5km railway line between Nandi and Mkwasine which will help small scale sugar cane producers transport their produce at a lower cost.

The $10m project was a sign of successful collaboration between the Government, the European Union which provided the bulk of the funding under the National Sugar Adaptation Trust (NSAT) through Canelands Trust, an organisation that helps out grower sugarcane farmers in the Lowveld, Tongaat Hullets and NRZ.

The entity also oversaw the acquisition of 24 High-Sided Wagons from China in November 2016. The wagons were acquired at a cost of $2.4 million using NRZ’s own resources.

The China-made wagons have made a positive effect on NRZ as customers’ demands are allowed to be met.

The NRZ vision and focus is also tilting towards diversification and unlocking value in its vast resources to shore up its revenue base.

The NRZ has some of the biggest workshops in the country with highly skilled engineers and artisans.

The workshops are in Bulawayo and Mutare.

On a daily basis, the workshops repair NRZ locomotives or manufacture goods needed in the operation of trains. However, the workshops are not operating at full capacity which can be used to the advantage of outside organisations in need of engineering solutions.

The workshops were recently rebranded Inter-Rail-Tech to provide engineering and mining companies as well as individuals with solutions to their engineering requirements.

Opening up the workshops has meant local companies can make use of NRZ’s advanced equipment and expertise while freeing their resources to their core operations.

NRZ is also promoting domestic tourism through Rail Leisure. Rail Leisure is a unit of the Passenger Services which runs Steam Safari Trains. The trains can be chartered by individuals or run by NRZ on special occasions such as Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day.

NRZ owns buildings and land all over the country and sees potential in unlocking value of its Real Estate.

Its Real Estate portfolio is made up of 3 723 properties consisting of commercial and residential buildings as well as tracts of land strategically located throughout the country.

The NRZ is open to entering into joint ventures in land developments while offering competitive rates for building leases.

Most of the railway tracks in the country were laid in the 1960s and plans are underway to build new railway lines to cut distances and take advantage of emerging markets.

Among the planned new lines is one from Guswini on the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls Line which will cut through Lupane and connect to the Bulawayo-Harare Line at Kwekwe.

Goods such as coal from Hwange going to Harare will no longer pass through Bulawayo.

Another planned line is the Lion’s Den-Kafue Line which make it shorter to transport goods bound for Zambia and Democratic Republic of Congo from the northern parts of the country.

At present all rail freight to north of the country has to pass through Bulawayo and Victoria Falls.

Zimbabwe’s strategic location at the centre of Southern Africa makes the NRZ a key element in the movement of goods from the north to south.

This makes NRZ an integral part in the economic development of not only Zimbabwe but the whole of Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).

NRZ in 2017 marked 120 years of existence since the first train arrived in Bulawayo on November 4, 1897. It has been part and parcel of the economy since its establishment.

The recapitalisation project and other diversification initiatives being undertaken by the NRZ mean that the organisation is ready to continue playing its role as a key enabler in economic growth.

As a result of these achievements, management and other officers are slowly getting recognition for their efforts to revive the NRZ.

Recently, the General Manager, Engineer Lewis Mukwada, was recognised at the Megafest Awards where he received the Outstanding Public Service Leader of the Year award.

Kuimba Shiri

A few years ago, a steam enthusiast remarked that the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) was sitting on a gold mine with its steam trains.

He said with proper marketing, Rail Leisure could earn the organisation much needed revenue while contributing to   the country’s tourism industry through steam train excursion.

The man’s sentiments were proved true when a Valentine Day Sashay Steam train which ran on 18 February 2018 was oversubscribed.

The steam train was from Harare to Kintyre Siding from where passengers were transferred by bus to Kuimba Shiri Bird Sanctuary on the shores of Lake Chivero.

At Kuimba Shiri passengers enjoyed an array of activities which included boat cruises, bird viewing, hose riding and fishing.

So successful was the run that some passengers were turned away because they could not fit on the consist  which included two economy class coaches, two sleeper coaches and three dining cars.

Eventually 248 adults and 84 children boarded the train.

NRZ Director (Operations) Sam Bhuza said the number of passengers overwhelmed the hosts who are not used to dealing with such a huge number of guests at any one time.

Kuimba Shiri management did what is unheard of in business.  The sanctuary told the NRZ that while they appreciated the business, future runs should be limited to a maximum of 250 people per trip.

Following the initial successful run, Kuimba Shiri is considering a long-term collaboration with the NRZ which will benefit both organisations.

Kuimba Shiri then went on to request for further runs to gauge the passenger volumes and see if the steam trains can be run on a monthly basis.

The second run organised on 25 March 2018 proved to be another success with 180 passengers paying to ride the train despite it being powered by a diesel locomotive.

The run was from Harare to Kintyre Siding and patrons had a wonderful time again at Kuimba Shiri Bird Sanctuary.

Passenger Services Assistant Mr Wonder Mukuyu said there was a ready niche market for steam trains.

He also said with intensified publicity, steam excursions had the potential to capture all sections of society to promote domestic tourism.

NRZ steam train rides are popular especially among steam train enthusiasts who are prepared to pay top dollar to relapse into the past.

The NRZ is one of the few organisations in the world with operational steam engines. This puts Rail Leisure in a unique position to attract tourists with a nostalgia for the past.

Rail Leisure is now a known brand among international steam enthusiasts and the collaboration between NRZ and Kuimba Shiri will allow locals to enjoy their heritage.

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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