By Alois Vinga
THE National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) has suspended budget commuter trains due to alarming levels of debts, which accrued for the services extended to the latter.
The development will further increase the cost of living for citizens, who now have to resort to the expensive private transport.
It also comes a few months after commuter omnibus operators, whose vehicles were operating under the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO) franchise pulled out due to poor management practices that delayed payments for services and fuel shortages, thereby prompting low returns.
The cut back in government subsidised public transport raises questions as to where the funds raised through the IMTT tax, which Treasury claimed was partly used to support public transport, are now going towards.
A source working at the NRZ told NewZimbabwe.com that the service had been terminated due to non-payment by ZUPCO.
“As from Friday, of the just ended week, management instructed train crews plying local routes in Harare to stop offering the service forthwith.
“This is due to the fact that ZUPCO has not been paying for the service,” the source said on condition of anonymity.
Contacted for comment and quizzed on the latest developments, NRZ public affairs and stakeholder relations manager, Andrew Kunambura who later responded by issuing a press statement confirmed the development, but said the suspension was temporary.
He said the suspension of the Urban Commuter Train Service was temporary.
“As a result, last commuter service ran on Friday 25th November 2022 and was occasioned by an unsustainable operating environment arising from huge debts owed to NRZ by ZUPCO, both in fuel and coach hire fees.
“NRZ was, therefore, left with no option but to suspend commuter trains from November 25, 2022 due to incapacitation. Normal services will resume once NRZ has been capacitated.
“Any inconvenience caused to our valued customers is sincerely regretted,” said Kunambura.