New railway line on cards

Source: New railway line on cards | The Financial Gazette June 23, 2016

TRANSPORT and Infrastructural Development Minister, Joram Gumbo, has revealed that government is carrying out a feasibility study for the construction of a new railway line linking Harare and the Zambian capital, Lusaka.
Gumbo told the Financial Gazette this week that the proposed railway line would link the two cities through Kariba to enhance business between the two countries.
Gumbo said: “We are planning to construct a railway line linking Harare and Lusaka in Zambia and at the moment we are conducting feasibility studies for the line which will pass through Kariba. This is the shortest route between the two capitals.”
Interestingly, the development comes at a time when the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) is struggling to get more than US$2 billion to upgrade and modernise existing infrastructure.
The ailing NRZ is also failing to pay its workers, who have been on strike since March in protest over non payment of their salaries.
The strike has paralysed operations at the parastatal, which has a debt amounting to more than US$140 million.
Of this, workers are believed to be owed nearly US$70 million.
For many years now, business for NRZ has been very low. Last year, the loss-making parastatal moved about three million tonnes of goods compared to 3,8 million tonnes in 2014.
At its peak in 1998, NRZ moved 18 million tonnes of goods annually.
The parastatal is facing challenges such as ageing infrastructure and equipment which breaks down intermittently because it has essentially surpassed its designed lifespan.
Government in March this year appointed Larry Mavhima as the new NRZ chairman, about four months after Alvord Mabhena was axed from the parastatal under unclear circumstances.
Mavhima was immediately confronted by worker unrest, defunct rail equipment and obsolete machinery, among other things.
He, however, declared that his three topmost priorities at NRZ would include the restoration of business confidence, unlocking new finance and restructuring of the parastatal’s workforce.