THE National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) yesterday increased fares on its inter-city passenger trains by up to 150 percent on some routes with immediate effect.

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 said the adjustment in fares had been necessitated by rising operational expenses.

“The fares for the five intercity routes we are currently servicing have been increased by an average ranging from 50 percent to 150 percent. The increase affects all the three classes with effect from 25 February 2019,” he said.

“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.”

First Class travellers on the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls and Bulawayo-Harare routes will now pay $20 up from $12.

The second class is now pegged at $17 from $8 and the economy class is now pegged at $15 from $6.

The cost of travelling on the Mutare-Harare return route increased to $15 from $8 for first class while the standard class now costs $13 from $6. The economy class now costs $10 up from $4.

However, the weekly train on the Bulawayo-Chiredzi route in first class went down to $13 from the initial charge of $14.

Mr Maravanyika said most of the travellers on that route are rural dwellers from areas where buses do not travel and the villagers walk long distances to reach the nearest train station.

The second class is now pegged at $11 from $9 while the economy class now costs $8 from $7.

The fare on the Bulawayo-Chikwalakwala route went up to $12 from $10 for the standard class and is now pegged at $9 from $7 for the economy class. The first class remains at $14.

Mr Maravanyika said the NRZ is hoping to improve on its efficiency, pinning its hopes on the closure of the $400 million recapitalisation deal signed with Diaspora Infrastructure Development Group (DIDG)/ Transnet to refurbish and in some cases overhaul locomotives, coaches and the railway line.

He 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 cheap rail transport due to the high cost of travelling by road.

“Passenger volumes have generally increased by between 274 and 373 percent per week on our inter-city routes. Southern region volumes have gone up to 10 000 which is a 373 percent increase while the Eastern region volumes went up to 5 000 passengers which is a 274 percent increase. In the Midlands region there is a 275 percent increase to 943 passengers per week,” said Mr Maravanyika.

He said the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls and Harare-Mutare routes remain the company’s cash cows.Herald