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Sep 14, 2012

Railway investments needed to cope with Zimbabwe coal growth

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HARARE (miningweekly.com) – In its current state, Zimbabwe’s railway network would not be able to accommodate the anticipated growth in the country’s coal sector, Zimbabwe Ministry of Transport, Communications and Infrastructural Development principal director Mufaro Gumbie said this week.

With sufficient financial assistance, Zimbabwe’s coal production was expected to reach seven-million tons a year, from two-million tons forecast for 2012.

“The rail system, as it is, will not be able to cope with the movement of the quantity of coal that will be required,” Gumbie told Mining Weekly Online at this year’s Zimbabwe Mining Indaba, in Harare.

Gumbie said most of Zimbabwe’s 2 583 km railway network required rehabilitation, which would cost $1.14-billion, while upgrading and replacing rolling stock would cost $870-million.

However, the funding shortfall for infrastructure development continued, with the country’s revenue reaching only $62-million in 2009.

At the peak of its operations in 1991, the National Railways of Zimbabwe moved about 14.4-million tons of freight, but 18 years later, this dropped to 2.5-million tons.

The decline was attibuted to a lack of availablity of locomotives and wagons, vandalised electrification systems and unserviceable railway signal systems.

The country’s roads were also in a dire state and Gumbie said Zimbabwe’s funding requirement for road maintenance in 2012 was $200-million, but that only $35-million was allocated for this purpose.

Similarly, the country required $2-billion for rehabilitation projects of roads, but a mere $209-million was set aside for projects.

Gumbie said that the ongoing rail and road infrastructure constraints created prospects for public–private partnerships. “There are opportunities for the private sector in rehabilitation and development of infrastructure.”

Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe infrastructure projects division acting director Alex Machimbirike told delegates that $1.5-million had been raised for feasibility studies for the Harare-Beitbridge and Harare-Chirundu toll road projects.

Studies were completed for the Harare-Chirundu road and would soon start for the Harare-Beitbridge road.

A further $22-million had been disbursed on the dualisation of Harare-Skyline road and Harare-Norton road, including the construction of two bridges.

For the rehabilitation of the national railway network $28-million had been spent, Machimbirike said.

He added that to mobilise resources for infrastructure development in Zimbabwe, its financial sector would have to forge alliances with external strategic partners with stronger financial capabilities and direct access to deep financial markets.

“Government has taken a proactive stance in financing infrastructure and is further encouraged to speed up the conclusion of public-private-partnerships legislation and the regulatory framework required to attract private sector investment,” Machimbirike indicated.
 

Edited by: Mariaan Webb
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