The resuscitation of the National Railways of Zimbabwe received a major boost yesterday after Government guaranteed the payment of the initial US$1,5 million required to facilitate the delivery of 100 wagons and 40 locomotives by a Russian firm, United Wagon Company, the second largest manufacturer of railway rolling stock in the world.
NRZ and the United Wagon Company signed a Memorandum of Understanding during President Mnangagwa's visit to Sochi, Russia last year.
The deal is two pronged as it involves the setting up of a plant to assemble wagons and locomotives in Zimbabwe for sale to other Sadc countries and the provision of rolling stock for NRZ.
In three years, NRZ is expected to have received 300 wagons from Russia.
With regards to the local assembling of the wagons and the locomotives, NRZ said it had a workshop in Bulawayo that could be upgraded to meet the standards required by the Russian company.
Yesterday, United Wagon Company deputy chief executive (commerce and marketing) Mr Boris Myagkov, accompanied by NRZ chairman Advocate Martin Dinha, met Vice President Constantino Chiwenga at his Munhumutapa Office.
Mr Myagkov also met Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Joel Biggie Matiza and Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Dr Misheck Sibanda.
Advocate Dinha said: "We have been allocated money by Government. We are looking for an equivalent of US$1,5 million and we are glad that our meeting with the VP has brought positive results towards unlocking that funding. We are happy that we are receiving support at the highest level so that NRZ can be fully capacitated.
"We are getting support from our Minster Joel Biggie Matiza and our President His Excellency Cde ED Mnangagwa and the VP as you can see here. We want to turn around NRZ. Whatever plethora of challenges we have should be a thing of the past. We want to realise Vision 2030 with a modern and efficient railway network in Zimbabwe that will not only serve Zimbabwe, but the region in freight and passenger.
"We have signed for 100 wagons at a cost of US$10 million and we require 300 wagons in the next three years. We also require 20 to 30 locomotives to go with that."
Adv Dinha said the Russian company had a strong footing both in the European and African markets adding that very soon it would start designing a prototype suitable for Zimbabwe.
Said Adv Dinha: "We are also looking at production in Zimbabwe for assembling, for welding, for fabrication and various industrial processes so that Zimbabwe becomes the link throughout the Sadc region.
"We have a workshop in Bulawayo that can be upgraded to the standards that they require for that so it's a twin project - industrialisation through manufacturing of wagons in Zimbabwe and provision of rolling stock that is wagons and locomotives to enhance the capacity NRZ."
Mr Myagkov said: "In Russia, rail is one of the most important means of connection with all the regions not only for freight, but also persons. That is why we fully understand the importance of developing railway in Zimbabwe for the development of the economy.
"Our company is the best in the world in terms of capabilities and the second biggest in the world in terms of manufacturing capacity. Our research and design institute has already designed the prototype design for Zimbabwe. So once we settle the financing scheme we will initiate production of the first lot that will be delivered here for trial operation."