Ray Bande Senior Reporter
BULLET trains are currently not feasible for Zimbabwe’s railway system considering the expenses incurred in running them, a National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) official has said.
In a wide-ranging interview on the state of affairs of the country’s railway system, NRZ public relations manager, Mr Nyasha Maravanyika explained the widely misunderstood difference between fast and bullet trains.
He said due to the high costs of running a bullet train, Zimbabwe will not be able to operate one soon.
Instead, Mr Maravanyika said Zimbabwe could work towards acquiring fast trains through the NRZ’s recapitalisation programme.
“As we move towards achieving a better railway system for our country, we should be mindful of the facts on the ground.
“Our immediate aim is to shift into usage of fast trains, not bullet trains. To operate a bullet train for less than a week, we will need an equivalent of electricity used by Harare City in a month. The machine is highly electrical,” explained Mr Maravanyika.
Railways were the first form of rapid land transportation and had an effective monopoly on long-distance passenger traffic until the development of the motor car and airliners in the early-mid 20th century.
Speed has always been an important factor for rail transport. They therefore constantly try to achieve higher speeds so as to decrease journey durations.
However, owing to poor maintenance, Zimbabwe’s railway system has been regressing.
“Over the years, speed limits have been reduced along our railway system due to the state of the rails. There is lack of repairs and maintenance,” revealed Mr Maravanyika.
Nonetheless, the NRZ story is not all doom and gloom.
The parastatal is exploring new synergies with some mining and manufacturing entities.
“We have managed to maintain our business with bulk transporters that include Tongaat Hullets, PPC and Zimasco in Kwekwe, among others.
“Even during this Covid-19 lockdown period, our service has been deemed essential. We continue transporting grain from South Africa, Tanzania, Beira and Maputo,” said Mr Maravanyika.
The world over, railway transport operators get an average of 97 percent of their revenue from freight services (goods train) while passenger trains only rack in three percent of the revenue.
“When people see passenger trains operating, they think the operators are smiling all the way to the bank. No, we get most of our revenue from freight services. The passenger train is more of a community service, which is subsidised by Government,” said Mr Maravanyika.
In Africa, only Morocco has acquired a bullet train.
South Africa has a high-speed Gautrain, which travels up to 160 kilometres per hour.