NRZ says costly commuter trains unsustainable; urges government subsidy

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By Bulawayo Correspondent

THE  National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) is making huge losses from its passenger trains, the company’s general manager has revealed.

Addressing journalists at the Bulawayo Media Centre, Lewis Mukwada said government should subsidise the service if it is to be sustainable.

“Generally, throughout the world, passenger trains are loss-making entities,” he said.

“Governments, the world over, provide the trains as part of their obligations to communities.

“For example, government has to put up roads through DDF (District Development Fund). So, similarly with passenger trains they are all loss making.”

Urban commuter trains were recently introduced in Bulawayo and Harare to help cushion locals against increases in fares by privately-owned buses and kombis.

The Bulawayo service started in November 2018. The trains cost $1 per single ride for adults while school children pay 50 cents.

However, Mukwada said the parastatal was struggling to sustain the service due to costs and lack of appropriate equipment.  

“When we introduced the passenger trains to Luveve, we had to use the coaches that were introduced in the 50s and 60s.

“They are in a very poor state. We just selected the best and they are the ones that are running,” he said.

Government also reneged on earlier pledges to subsidise the service.

“Government in 1997 promised to give railways money to support the passenger trains but they have not been in a position to do that. It is a burden we have to carry,” he said.

The company has since made representations to the minister of finance over the issue.

“We had discussions with the ministry of finance and explained to them the losses we are making,” said Mukweda.

“We also went to the ministry of transport and demonstrated our figures and the papers are now with the ministry of finance.

“We are operating with the expectation that the ministry will consider the issue of commuter trains.”