Harare-Chitungwiza rail project back on track . . . IDBZ to spearhead project . . . Bank seeks approvals to engage consultant

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    Martin Kadzere
    Zimbabwe has revived plans to construct a railway line linking Harare and Chitungwiza as it seeks an efficient and reliable public transportation system between the two urban centres.

    Desmond Matete, head (infrastructure projects) at Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe, said the railway line was among the bank’s priority projects in the short to medium term.

    “We are now working towards engaging the Government for approvals to look for a consultant; to undertake an updated version of the feasibility study,” he said.

    “This will enable us to know the designs and the scale of investment needed.”

    The Harare-Chitungwiza route is largely served by commuter omnibuses, which rarely provide an efficient service in terms of frequency, capacity, safety and travel time.

    With growing passenger volumes between the two cities-which constitute 17 percent of Zimbabwe’s population-the rail link would improve public transportation system.

    The Harare-Chitungwiza urban rail project has been on the cards for more than three decades.

    The initial project assessment was undertaken by Richard Barett Traffic and Transport Associates Limited in October 1986, six year after Zimbabwe’s independence.

    The Government subsequently endorsed the report and decided to implement the three other phases.

    In 1991, the Government commissioned a joint venture of French Engineering Companies to undertake the second phase. A contract was signed between the then Ministry of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development and the company-SOFRETU/BCEOM.

    This stage ended with the preparation of tender documents for detailed engineering designs.

    Operations were set to start in 1996. The proposed maximum capacity was 48 000 passengers per hour per direction at six passengers per square meter. The commercial speed was 53 kilometres per hour. The operational headway was expected to be nine minutes at start of operations and to improve to four to five minutes by 2010.

    The project also included capacity building for all the employees who would be involved in the project.

    Feasibility study review

    Matete said a new feasibility study was now a necessity to review and update the previous parameters set out when the project was mooted over 30 years ago.

    “We will go through an international competitive bidding process for a consultant,” Matete said.

    “A lot has changed in terms of the public transport sector therefore, there is need to investigate the feasibility of an urban rail system between Harare and Chitungwiza possibly linking other greater Harare suburbs beyond a direct link with Harare CBD.”

    The scale of investment

    Matete said the scale of investment and the financial viability of the project would be known “with certainty” after the feasibility studies have been carried out.

    President Mnangagwa, who succeeded long time-ruler Robert Mugabe following military intervention in November last, has declared that Zimbabwe is open for business in a bid to attract foreign investment ahead of a general elections on July 30.

    Since January this year, deals worth nearly $16 billion have been approved the Zimbabwe Investment Authority, a state agency charged with approving investment proposal.

    His administration has already repealed the indigenisation, which previously restricted foreign companies from owning more than 49 percent shareholding in local businesses.

    The law is now restricted to only two minerals, diamond and platinum, but even then, this only temporary to allow the Government to craft a beneficiation policy for them, after which the indigenisation law would scrapped for the entire extractive sector.

    SA experience

    Gautrain, Africa’s first rapid rail system started operation in 2010 in South Africa and recorded approximately 27 million passengers in the first two years. In the past few years, it has carried an average of 15 million train passengers per year. The train system also brought the much-needed world class transport in an environment where public transport was not seen as an option. Equally important was its effect on economic growth, spatial development, job creation and modal integration.

    Travelling at 160 kilometres per hour, Gautrain links 10 stations over an 80 kilometre route and three metropolitan cities. Three of these stations are located underground, the deepest, Sandton Station which is nearly 15 floors below street level.

    The s ystem also includes an airport link between OR Tambo International Airport and Sandton. Stations are serviced by dedicated feeder and distributor routes. The rolling stock comprises 96 Bombardier’s Electostar rail cars operated in four car train sets with a capacity to carry more than 100 000 passengers per day.

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