Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
THE National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) would refurbish 200 wagons under a latest partnership deal with its Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) counterpart, Societe Nationale des chemins de fer du Congo (SNCC).
Under the arrangement, the repaired wagons would be used to ferry coal from Hwange to Kolwezi in the DRC while exploring ways to increase rail traffic between the two corridors.
NRZ general manager Ms Respina Zinyanduko and SNCC director of operations Mr Marc Manyanga Ndambo signed a memorandum of agreement between the two parties in Bulawayo last month.
The project is expected to boost NRZ’s operational capacity and enhance smooth bulk cargo movement between the two countries which is crucial for regional trade.
A delegation from SNCC was in Bulawayo yesterday led by technical director, Engineer David Shimbi Lubanga and conducted a tour of the NRZ giant mechanical workshop department where they identified 200 of the 400 high-sided wagons that require refurbishment.
In an interview NRZ acting public relations manager, Mr Martin Banda, said officials from SNCC were using the visit to cement and enhance co-operation between the two railway companies.
“What is going to happen is that when they have assessed at least about 400 of the 2 000 wagons, which are stabled here, we have got the BOQs (Bill Of Quantities) of what is required for each wagon to be repaired,” he said.
“So, they will identify 200 of the 400, which they are going to inspect and from those 200 they will go back to their respective principals (DRC Government) who will then give them a go ahead to repair them.
“When those wagons have been repaired, it means that immediately, we will start moving coal from Zimbabwe to DRC.” In 2021, NRZ moved 2 191 million tonnes of cargo against a target of three million tonnes.
Last year’s target was weighed down by the Covid-19-induced operational challenges that NRZ’s major customers faced as well as unreliable locomotive, wagon shortages and dilapidated rail network that resulted in frequent derailments.
“We are targeting to move at least three million tonnes this year. We are sure that we will be able to meet that target by the end of the year,” said Mr Banda.
NRZ, which has an installed capacity to move 18 million tonnes of cargo annually anticipates that this year’s projected freight movement is achievable on account of various initiatives including stakeholder support.
During the tour, the two rail giants’ senior officials conducted spot inspection of the NRZ rolling stock, workshops and marshalling yards. The exercise is meant to guide strategies on lobbying respective governments to support their National Transportation Master plans that define cargo for rail and cargo for road.
NRZ is undertaking various initiatives to build its capacity, develop its export markets and strengthen its economic partnership agreements. Speaking through an interpreter, Eng Lubanga said their visit was a follow-up to NRZ delegation’s visit to DRC last year.
“During their visit to DRC last year, there was a commitment to better the partnership between the two railway companies . . . there was also another issue regarding the mutualisation of rolling stock between the two railway companies in terms of wagons because we need to move big volumes of cargo between Zimbabwe and DRC.
We have to move at least 20 000 tonnes of coal from Hwange to Lubumbashi in DRC and from DRC there are mineral products, which are moved to this side,” he said.
Through the Southern African Railway Association (SARA), it has been realised that co-operation and collaboration between regional rail companies is important as they were facing stiff competition from road transport.
It is hoped that the use of rail to carry bulk cargo will translate into several benefits that include reduction in transport costs, road traffic accidents and less damage to the road networks.
Experts regard rail transport as cost effective in terms of moving both bulk raw materials and finished products with one unit train load being equivalent to 33 haulage trucks. [email protected]
Article Source: The Chronicle