THE National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) has increased inter-city passenger train fares by 100 percent.
Intra-city commuter train fares, however, remain unchanged at $1 for a return ticket.
NRZ operates three daily and two weekly inter-city passenger train services countrywide.
The daily train return routes are Bulawayo-Victoria Falls, Bulawayo-Harare and Mutare-Harare while the weekly service is offered on the Bulawayo-Chiredzi and Bulawayo-Chikwalakwala routes.
NRZ Public Relations Manager, Mr Nyasha Maravanyika, yesterday said the adjustment in fares had been necessitated by rising operational expenses.
“The fares for the five inter-city routes we are currently servicing have been increased by 100 percent. The increase affects all the three classes.
“Although we have a duty to provide affordable transport services to the people, we need to balance the cost of operations and service provision. That is why we have moved on to increase so that we survive the economic pressures,” said Mr Maravanyika.
He said sleeper class travellers on the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls and Bulawayo-Harare routes will now pay $60 up from $30 while the standard fare is now pegged at $50 up from $25.
The economy class is now pegged at $40 up from $20.
The cost of travelling on the Mutare-Harare return route increased to $40 from $20 for first class while the standard class now costs $30 from $15. The economy class now costs $25 up from $12.
Mr Maravanyika however, could not immediately give the new fares for the Bulawayo-Chiredzi and Bulawayo-Chikwalakwala routes.
He said the fares were still low and affordable, considering that they are a third of what buses on the same routes are charging.
“The increase is insignificant but we’re happy to provide a service to the community. Our profit actually comes from the freight, not passenger trains. The Harare-Mutare train was oversubscribed and increasing the fares was a way of trying to manage the numbers,” Mr Maravanyika said.
He said their biggest challenge was lack of capacity due to inadequate equipment.
Mr Maravanyika said NRZ used to operate nine inter-city routes but reduced them to five, two of them being weekly due to lack of capacity.
“We’re currently working with our mechanical workshops to increase our coaches and refurbish our equipment. We’re hoping to improve on efficiency and we’re also pinning our hopes on the recapitalisation deal signed with the Diaspora Infrastructure Development Group (DIDG)/ Transnet to refurbish and in some cases overhaul locomotives, coaches and the railway line,” he said.
Mr Maravanyika said while numbers are picking up between Bulawayo and Harare, the train service was facing challenges due to vandalism of infrastructure between Harare and Gweru.
The stretch used to be electrified but was destroyed by thieves who stole copper cables and illegal panners who mine along the railway line.
The NRZ has seen passenger volumes rising by 300 percent since the beginning of the year as more people turn to affordable rail transport due to the high cost of travelling by road.