THE accident-prone National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) has a stretch of only 20 kilometres covered by its centralised traffic control (CTC) system along the Harare-Mutare route.
The rest of the rail network relies on an outdated communication system.
Sources said the NRZ, whose trains were last week involved in yet another accident, only has a small stretch of CTC along the Harare-Mutare line.
The CTC system is a digitalised communications link that co-ordinates the movement of trains at intersections and minimises chances of collision.
NRZ’s CTC system is said to have collapsed due to lack of spares and the emigration of technical personnel responsible for the repair of the equipment. This has left a 20-kilometre route on the Harare-Mutare railway line still on CTC.
The system is understood to have not been working for the last three years, resulting in numerous fatal rail accidents countrywide. This came in the wake of allegations by the government that human error was responsible for the Harare commuter train accident last week in which over 70 people were injured, and the Dete train disaster earlier in the year that claimed the lives of 50 people and left scores injured.
NRZ insiders say the entire rail network needs to be overhauled and equipped with hi-tech and state-of-the art microwave communications system that is used in developed countries.
Currently the NRZ is using the traditional paper order method of communication where signal personnel man rail junctions and give out manual signals to train drivers.
“The problem with this method is that any negligence on the part of the signals controller can result in fatal accidents and in most cases the signals teams are always new and not highly trained,” an NRZ source said.
NRZ Corporate Affairs manager, Misheck Matanhire, confirmed the broke parastatal was facing a serious crisis but claimed it was working on a turn- around strategy that would permanently rectify the problem.
“The NRZ has now embarked on a programme to rehabilitate the existing signalling and telecommunications system as a medium-term solution,” Matanhire said.