By Bulawayo Correspondent
FOR years shunned by travellers because of its failure to stick to timetables and generally slow service, the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) seems to have been thrust back into the limelight by fate following incessant fuel price increases that have triggered prohibitive transport fares across the country.
Fuel prices have gone up by some 500% in the last seven months forcing transport operators to do the same and leaving commuters with little choice but to begin to shop around for the most affordable modes.
Last week, the majority of long-distance buses increased their prices citing the continuous fuel increases as well as the new 300% increase in tollgates rates announced by government recently.
Until the latest price increases of this Monday, the price of a litre of petrol cost $9.01 with diesel pegged at $9.06 while tollgates fees have been increased from $2 to $10 for light motor vehicles and buses now pay $20, up from $4.
A trip from Bulawayo to Harare now costs $120 while the Harare/Mutare route now costs $80, up from $40.
In an interview with New Zimbabwe.com, NRZ public relations manager Nyasha Maravanyika confirmed that a lot of passengers are now patronising NRZ passenger coaches due to exorbitant fares being charged by buses and other private operators.
“It is true that a lot of passengers now prefer our coaches because of their affordability. Our charges are still relatively cheap compared to those being charged by buses,” said Maravanyika.
Maravanyika said NRZ will also be reviewing its fares but it will however remain far cheaper than other modes of transport.
“Starting from tomorrow (12 August 2019), we will be raising the prices of the Bulawayo /Harare and Bulawayo/Victoria Falls sleeper coaches to $60. The Standard coaches will now cost $50 while the Economy (class) will now cost $40. This is still cheap in comparison with the prices of public transport,” said Maravanyika.
When NewZimbabwe.com news crew visited the NRZ passenger station in Bulawayo on Sunday, scores of people were at the station waiting to board trains to various destinations.
“I wanted to travel to Harare in the morning with my wife and two kids but I could not do so because buses and lifts are charging very high prices. For a distance which the buses were demanding almost $500 for the four of us, we have now paid less than $100,” said Elliot Ndlovu who was travelling to Harare for a family function.