The Sunday Mail
Considering the high cost of long distance public transport in Zimbabwe, many passengers are now using passenger trains as a cheaper alternative form of transport.
This has resulted in passengers stampeding to catch the first available coach to their respective destinations.
Long distance public transport is now beyond the reach of many and travellers, especially those travelling to Mutare, are now devoting most of their time to queuing at the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) Harare offices for either bookings or waiting for the next available train.
NRZ is charging $40 for the sleeper class to and from Mutare. The standard class is going for $30 while the economy class is charging $20, compared to other public transport forms which are charging between $75 and $85 for the same distance in cash or $100 ecocash payment.
Bulawayo-Harare and Bulawayo-Victoria-Falls fares are $60 for the sleeper class, $50 for the standard class and $40 for the economy class. Road public transporters are charging between $100 and $115 in cash while the ecocash charge is now at $150 for the Harare-Bulawayo route.
The Harare-Mutare route is now the busiest due to the high number of cross-border traders who take advantage of Mutare’s proximity to Mozambique.
The Bulawayo-Harare train travels to Harare on Thursdays and goes to Bulawayo on Fridays. The Harare-Mutare travels on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; making the return journeys on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
The only day train operating is the one servicing the Bulawayo-Victoria-Falls-Bulawayo route.
The passenger trains have become so popular that recently, two passengers were trampled to death at the National Railways station in Harare. They wanted to board the Mutare-bound train.
NRZ public relations manager, Mr Nyasha Maravanyika, said the passengers’ safety is a priority.
“We received reports that two people collapsed on our Harare-Mutare passenger train. We are investigating the reasons behind the collapse.
“Going forward, we have improved our itinerary in order to prioritise the safety of our passengers. We are getting down to the issues that have been happening, especially on the Harare-Murare route,” he said.
He added, “As the National Railways of Zimbabwe, we strive to see that the safety of our passengers is our first priority. We are putting all our efforts to make sure that our passengers are safe and they reach their destinations without any hustles.
“The immediate measures to control stampedes in our passenger trains is to adhere to the required maximum number of passengers. In some instances, our teams are lenient, but we are saying our immediate focus is to follow the required itinerary requirements. If our coach is for 100 people, we should have that maximum number and no extra passengers.
“With the overwhelming number of passengers booking, I urge travelling parties to book on time and avoid unnecessary stampedes.
In the long run, he added, the organisation is planning to recapitalise and increase the number of its coaches and wagons through the DIDG/Transnet deal.
“We have been in negotiations that should end this month,” said Mr Maravanyika.
After the negotiations, the deal will also need Cabinet’s approval.