Despite problems facing the passenger transport industry, the much talked about Harare-Chitungwiza railway line seems to be still on. The detailed engineering, design and costing of the line is expected to be completed at the end of this month.
The design, which is phase two of project, which is divided into four phases, was started in June last year. I t is being carried out by a French consortium, SOFRETU and BCEOM and is being funded by the government and through a 12 million French Francs facility secured under French Protocol 1V.
The first phase which was the preliminary assessment (technical and economic) was completed in May 1987. The next stage will be the construction and procurement and the final stage that of commissioning and testing of the system.
Local Government Minister Joseph Msika says the government may be asked to consider financing of the project sometime in 1993.
While the idea to construct the railway line was mooted at a time when the transport system in the greater Harare area had become chaotic and staggered working hours were introduced to alleviate the situation, the problem seems to have fizzled out with the introduction for more emergency taxis.
In fact, there are strong fears that the market is now overtraded. ZUPCO, which was failing to cope with the situation, has been allocated new buses but it too is losing business to the emergency taxis.
Because of the overtrading, this has forced fares down and ZUPCO had to forego two fare increases in the wake of stiff competition.
With problems normally associated with railway systems it should be no surprise that while a grand idea it might be another white elephant. Perhaps, in the spirit of deregulation , the private sector should be allowed to undertake the project should it find it viable instead of the government undertaking it.