Nqobile Bhebhe, Senior Business Reporter
THE National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) says its engagements with the Indian Railways Infrastructure Consultancy and Engineering Company, RITES Limited for the supply of locomotives are at an advanced stage with the local railway firm awaiting the release of funds from the Treasury.
A Memorandum of Understating (MoU) between the two parties was signed early last year with the main focus on infrastructure development projects.
The intervention is meant to support NRZ through technical support, offer railway infrastructure development including export or leasing of rolling stock and transforming railway workshops into modernised and advanced workshops.
The NRZ is going through a phased recapitalization programme to restore operational capacity and restore profitability.
The recapitalisation of NRZ is one of the top priorities under the National Development Strategy (NDS1) as transport and logistics are part of the key pillars of economic recovery.
In a recent interview with Business Chronicle, NRZ general manager Ms Respina Zinyanduko, said the recapitalisation programme was on track, adding that other stalled negotiations have been revived.
“On recapitalisation, we have covered a lot of ground. We have been in the market and looked at several options, some materialised while others did not as certain requirements proved to be beyond our reach,” she said.
“Basically, we are now zeroing in on the RITES of India where we are expecting to buy locomotives and wagons and diesel multiple units or DMUs.
“Negotiations and agreements are already in place. What is left is the confirmation on funding from the Treasury, which they have advised that they will do any time from now.”
Apart from the India deal, the NRZ boss said stalled negotiations with the Russian firm- TMH have been revived.
When the ongoing Russia- Ukraine conflict started in February last year, it affected negotiations as both parties could not travel for talks.
“We have resuscitated the negotiations. We had an idle year but the Russians came to Zimbabwe last month to pursue the discussions,” Ms Zinyanduko said.
While the firm is working on a short-term recapitalisation strategy towards procurement of locomotives, it is also looking at Private Public Partnerships (PPPs).
On this, Ms Zinyanduko said they were negotiating and engaging with customers where they would repair and maintain some wagons.
“We have several arrangements in line. We have engaged our bigger customers who require more capacity. We have an arrangement where they would buy locomotive spares and we do refurbishment and then dedicate that facility to their cargo,” she said.
“We have a running contract with one of our biggest customers, which I cannot name due to confidentiality issues. They are refurbishing two locomotives and 100 wagons.
“The other arrangement is at the signing stage and the first part entails the refurbishment of three locomotives and 400 wagons.
“That route will assist us in creating capacity. A locomotive in terms of manufacturing takes between 18 and 24 months, so while we are waiting for delivery we still need to move cargo.”
Under the India deal, she said NRZ expects refurbishment of other key infrastructure such as reducing cautions or what are known as ‘rail potholes’, particularly from the busiest ones such as Hwange-Harare and Dabuka- Maputo routes.
In this year’s budget, the parastatal has set aside funds for the procurement of wooden slippers for stabilisation of yards.