Debra Matabvu and Harmony Agere
YAPI MERKEZI, the Turkish company which recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Zimbabwe National Railways (NRZ) to recapitalize and modernize the country’s rail system, has started implementing the first phase of the agreement which includes assessment of rail infrastructure across the country.
The agreement will kick off the transformation of the NRZ through the rehabilitation of the country’s railways.
To date, Yapi Merkezi has indicated that she is impressed with the condition and potential of the rail infrastructure.
Yapi Merkezi’s three-member delegation, which was in the country for a week after arriving on September 7, assessed the tracks, locomotives and signaling system.
The team assessed the possibilities of integrating light rail systems in urban areas that will be used for public transport.
Transport and Infrastructure Development Secretary Engineer Theodius Chinyanga told the Sunday Mail on Thursday that the first phase involves the rehabilitation of existing infrastructure.
He said that under the first phase no new rail infrastructure is envisaged.
“The Turkish entity sent their delegation about a fortnight ago, they made presentations on the capabilities, the kind of support they have from the Turkish government and they invited the government to visit some of the countries where they are undertaking projects, ”said Eng Chinyanga. .
“They will examine the track, signaling, locomotives, workshops and all other ancillary areas that NRZ seeks to rehabilitate, especially the main rail corridors in order to attract business.
“The first phase of this agreement focuses on existing infrastructure and not on new infrastructure. The company has capacity in passenger coaches to rehabilitate the public transport system in urban areas. Light rail will therefore be considered, but it will be included in the existing infrastructure.
“No new infrastructure is envisaged under this arrangement. The first phase concerns the capacitation and recapitalization of the NRZ in terms of equipment, its tracks, locomotives and wagons. This phase will also involve the framing mission.
Eng Chinyanga said that the second phase will lead to extensive negotiations which will lead to financial close.
“The second phase will involve discussions. There are needs that the NRZ already knows. So after the framing mission, there will be a marriage of what Yapi would have found on his mission and what NRZ already knows.
“Once an agreement is reached on the full scope then there will be the financial discussions and once these are signed that means we will go into the actual implementation.”
In a previous interview with The Sunday Mail, acting NRZ chief executive Ms Respina Ziyanduko said the deal with Yapi Merkezi has so far gone as planned.
“We had a meeting with the Turkish investor, Yapi Merkezi, and we are quite happy with the progress,” she said.
“Their technical team was in the country to visit our rail infrastructure and they were very happy with what they saw. They said they didn’t expect the rail network to be as good as it is and one of the best in the region.
Besides the renovation of the railway infrastructure, Yapi Merkezi has indicated his intention to include the purchase of locomotives in the agreement.
“During the tour, they found around 258 warnings or what we can call potholes in the tracks that need to be fixed,” Ms. Zinyanduko said.
“We are now at a stage where they are establishing the cost of the necessary repairs and they have also indicated that they want to provide us with locomotives as part of the agreement.
“So they are the ones who will find the funding and provide the necessary technical expertise. The government has already given us the green light to make a contract with Yapi Merkezi, so once they are done we can work out terms and sign the deal.
As part of the tour, government officials, NRZ leaders and Yapi Merkezi’s team traveled to Tanzania to assess some of the work already done by the company.
Yapi Merkezi has been awarded a $ 1.92 billion contract to build a 422 km high-speed electric rail line in Tanzania.
The company was responsible for the design and construction of the railway line in Dar es Salaam.
“Yapi Merkezi is a fairly large company that has done a lot of work in Africa and a team went to Tanzania to assess the project that was carried out by the company there. This gives us the assurance that we are making a deal with the right, proven partner.
Meanwhile, Eng Chinyanga revealed that the government canceled the deal NRZ previously signed with South Africa’s DIDG / Transnet consortium.
The deal, involving a joint venture between the Diaspora Infrastructure Development Group – a consortium of Zimbabweans living abroad and South African rail giant Transnet – was reached in 2017, but canceled in 2019 after the consortium failed to succeeded in providing a viable financing plan.
“The DIDG / Transnet arrangement has been canceled. As far as we are concerned, as a ministry, we adhered to the decision to cancel the deal and asked NRZ to come back to the market to look for investors.
Yapi Merkezi is a world famous brand in railway technologies. The company is ranked 78th in the 2020 list of the 250 best international entrepreneurs.
NRZ needs a capital injection of US $ 400 million in the short and medium term to become profitable again.
Speaking at the signing ceremony of the memorandum of understanding between NRZ and Yapi Merkezi in Turkey recently, the general manager of the investor, Mr. Ali Aslan Uzun, said he has the capacity to renovate the rail network from Zimbabwe.