Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
THE National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) plans to spend over US$15 million this year under an ongoing maintenance programme of wagons and locomotives.
NRZ general manager, Engineer Lewis Mukwada, revealed this in an interview after a tour of the parastatal’s workshops and infrastructure in Bulawayo by the Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Joe Biggie Matiza last week.
“To put things into perspective, if you look at any one of those locomotives, to overhaul it we need spares worth over US$750 000 to US$800 000,” he said.
“And our programme for the year we wanted to do seven of those and then four of the small ones that cost around US$400 000 to US$500 000. That’s the scope of money we are talking about.”
Refurbishment of NRZ wagons and locomotives is critical as the railways company has been using obsolete equipment that has been in use since the 1960s.
“We also have to go to the wagons and do just one wagon. With a complete refurbishment we are looking at US$25 000 and again our target was to do 300 of those during the year. This is just for ongoing maintenance not really recapitalisation,” said Eng Mukwada.
In 2017, NRZ and the Diaspora Infrastructure Development Group/Transnet Consortium signed a US$400 million recapitalisation programme whose financial closure is yet to be reached.
So far, NRZ is leasing 13 locomotives, 200 wagons and 34 passenger coaches from Transnet as an interim solution to its resource gaps while waiting to reach financial closure of the US$400 million recapitalisation project.
Eng Mukwada said NRZ was refurbishing wagons and locomotives using internal resources.
“We have been drawing on every possible source of income, you recall over the last three years we were selling scrap.
We sold over 30 000 tonnes of scrap wagons and part of that money we channelled towards the refurbishment of the wagons and this is how we managed to do more than 400 wagons last year,” he said.
NRZ also has a real estate portfolio, which the State-owned entity is developing and at present the unit is generating more revenue than the passenger train business.
Part of the income raised from the initiative is being put into the wagons and locomotive maintenance programme.
In the first quarter of the year NRZ moved 600 000 tonnes against a target of 627 000 tonnes compared to 556 000 during the same period in 2018.
“The second quarter though is proving to be a challenge. We have seen some of our major customers experiencing challenges that are beginning to impact on the business that we have been getting,” he said.
“So, it’s really going to require a lot of effort from us to continue with the upward trend that we have been on over the last few years.”