NRZ to reintroduce passenger train Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development Joel Biggie Matiza and NRZ Board Chairman Martin Dinha at a hotel in Bulawayo yesterday

Andile Tshuma, Chronicle Correspondent
GOVERNMENT has said the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) passenger train is coming back soon to relieve commuters who have been facing transport challenges since the lockdown came into effect in March.

Following the suspension of passenger train services, only buses and kombis under the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco) banner were allowed to ferry passengers.

Zupco was, however, overwhelmed by the demand of transport, leaving some people stranded.

Long queues have become a common feature since the announcement of the lockdown.

Both urban and long-distance trains are making a comeback.

In Bulawayo the commuter train popularly known as Freedom Train services the Cowdray Park and Emganwini routes, benefitting thousands of commuters daily.

Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development Cde Joel Biggie Matiza told journalists during a media briefing in Bulawayo yesterday that upon return, the passenger train will introduce more routes in cities and between districts as well as provinces.

“There is a lot that needs to be done in terms of ensuring that the trains are safe and that issues such as social distancing are implemented in our trains. That is why services were temporarily suspended. However, the trains are coming back and commuters will be relieved soon,” said the minister.

He said Government through the inter-ministerial taskforce on Covid-19 was still reviewing the return of more players in the transport sector as the country was still on lockdown.

“We are aware of the transport crisis hence measures to open up the Zupco franchise to more players. We are reviewing the measures that have been put in place as we go, as we are also monitoring the Covid-19 crisis. We have not yet fully opened as we are still under lockdown,” he said.

Meanwhile, Minister Matiza said work was underway on the Bulawayo-Nkayi road, which is in a bad state although most works were disturbed by the Covid-19 as Government prioritised the health sector.

He said he was waiting for funding to be released so that work continue where road resurfacing had already started. Minister Matiza said the Tsholotsho floods, Cyclone Idai, the drought and Covid-19 have forced Government to divert some funding towards humanitarian crises.

“I was in Nkayi two weeks back and I assessed the road. The issue of Covid-19 has been problematic as it has affected a lot of things. We need to prioritise certain roads where we had already stared priming, that is why it is taking a lot of time. As soon as we are out of Covid-19 problem, we will resume work. Most projects are still ongoing and the Nkayi road project will be prioritised,” said the Minister.

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