By Esinathy Sibanda
More than 5 000 passengers have used the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) commuter train in the first five days of its re-introduction in Bulawayo, translating to a capacity utilisation of 71 percent.
The State rail company introduced a train on the City-Cowdray Park route two weeks ago and the response from commuters has been overwhelming.
In a statement, the NRZ said the “company reintroduced the commuter train in response to appeals from the travelling public who were being overcharged by commuter omnibuses with some kombis charging as much as $2 at peak times for a trip into the city”.
“The National Railways of Zimbabwe is pleased to note that the travelling public has responded positively to the re-introduction of commuter trains in Bulawayo. More than 5 000 passengers have boarded the City-Cowdray Park commuter train in the first five days of its operation,” said NRZ Public Relations Manager Mr Nyasha Maravanyika.
The commuter train has seven coaches with each coach having a capacity of 100 passengers.
The train has been attracting more than 300 passengers per trip.
“On the first morning run on Monday, November 5, 309 passengers boarded the train. On the return trip in the evening the number increased to 350. On Tuesday, 532 boarded in the morning and 537 in the evening,” Mr Maravanyika said.
Wednesday morning November 7 attracted the highest patronage of the week, said the NRZ, with 743 passengers boarding.
“In the evening the commuter train carried 486 passengers. Thursday saw the morning service recording 618 passengers while 489 were on the evening service. On Friday, 607 passengers boarded the morning train compared to 334 on the evening train.
Mr Maravanyika said the commuter passenger train has managed to maintain departure and arrival times, thus sticking to its schedule.
The morning commuter train departs Bulawayo Station at 4:05AM and arrives at Esigodweni in Cowdray Park at 5:30AM. It then departs for the return journey at 5:35AM and arrives at Bulawayo Station at 7AM.
The evening service leaves Bulawayo Station at 5.30PM and arrives at Esigodweni at 6:50PM. It departs for the return trip at 6:55PM and arrives in town at 8:15PM.
The train runs from Monday to Friday with two services daily in the morning and evening and the rail entity is charging 50 cents for a single trip, a fare commuters want reduced to at least 30 cents.
Only cash payments are accepted for single ride tickets and purchases can be made either before boarding or while on board the train.
Commuters can also buy 10 multi-ride tickets for $4,50. Multi-ride tickets can be bought using swipe or EcoCash at the Bulawayo Station.
Mr Maravanyika said the NRZ is pleased and satisfied with how it has managed to service the route conveniently for its encouraging commuter train patronage.
“It has also noted requests from passengers who work mainly in the industrial sites who would like the train to leave Cowdray Park earlier so that they have ample time to walk to their workplaces,” he said.
“However, it should be noted that in coming up with the departure times, the NRZ is trying to balance the interests of passengers who start work early and those who start at the traditional 8AM as per many companies’ business hours.” The Chronicle