Bulawayo (New Ziana)-The government should subsidise the urban commuter train service to enable the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) to continue serving the public.
NRZ board chairperson Martin Dinha said this in a speech read on his behalf during the launch of the third edition of the NRZ National Safety Week, which is also commemorated by Southern Africa Railway Association members.
The theme for the commemorations this year was “Be Vigilant around Tracks, Trains are fast but too slow to stop”.
Dinha said commuter train services the world over were not profit oriented but social and community service based.
He said the NRZ was basically serving the communities and cushioning them against high transport costs.
The NRZ first introduced commuter trains (commonly known as Freedom Trains) in Harare and Bulawayo in 2001 to cushion the public from soaring transport costs.
It suspended the service in 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, but reintroduced it in 2021 in partnership with the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company which was failing to cope with the large numbers of commuters following the banning of private commuter omnibus operators.
“Our passenger service, particularly in the commuter trains such as the ones that run in Luveve, Cowdry Park, are never profit oriented world over but community and social based. We are basically serving the community.
“In conjunction with Zupco, we request the government to provide a subsidy for commuter train services which we offer in urban areas.”
Dinha applauded the government for assisting the NRZ in implementing its turnaround strategies.
“We continue to rely on government support to ensure we achieve the object of turning around the fortunes of this great entity.
“As we go into the twilight zone of the turnaround phase, we have been geared for this transformation so that we bring NRZ to its rightful position in terms of influencing our economy.”
Dinha expressed concern over the increase in unsafe activities around the railway tracks, adding that they were mainly being caused by members of the public.
He cited suicides on railway tracks, throwing of stones at moving trains, vandalism and illegal gold mining near the tracks as some of the unsafe activities.
“We have encountered a number of challenges in our operations such as railroad level crossing accidents, suicides on the tracks, stone throwing, vandalism, illegal gold panning and mining,” he explained.
Dinha appealed to line Ministries and other government departments to assist the NRZ in protecting the national infrastructure.