By Brighton Muronzereyi

MAJOR players in Zimbabwe’s railway construction sector are rubbing their hands in anticipation of the prospects presented by the Manhize iron and steel project in Mvuma, Midlands Province.

This comes as a conglomerate of railway investors, Beitbridge Bulawayo Railway (BBR), which incorporates local and regional investors, including the National Railways of Zimbabwe, recently visited the Manhize steel plant and expressed interest in working with Dinson Iron and Steel to build a new rail network radiating from the Manhize steel plant.

BBR general manager Raymond Shonhiwa told the Daily News yesterday that the conglomerate was eager to be involved in the major project after having built and operated the eponymous Beitbridge-Bulawayo rail for the past 30 years.

 Manhize, according to him, is the next big thing.

“There has been a lack of such big mining projects that desired solutions that we the rail operators can provide,” Shoniwa said.

“When I heard about this project, I had to invite my shareholder Grindrod Limited to see how much investment is being done in Zimbabwe and also how we can benefit,” he said.

Shonhiwa noted that with major mining projects coming on board, rail would never go out of fashion.

He said: “I think people have shunned the rail over the years.

“When they look at the current rail infrastructure, they think there is no money in the rail but you need to understand that there has been so much significant development in the mining sector.”

According to Shonhiwa, rail would also ease pressure on the road infrastructure.

“There are roads that are currently being constructed. If you do not develop the rail infrastructure those roads are going to be destroyed in a few years.

“So as responsible citizens we need to make sure that there is money that is channelled towards the rail so that the roads can be saved.”

The construction of new railway lines by private players is likely to be under the framework of a concession.

Railway concessions are a government policy whereby it privatises its railway services by granting contracts to private individuals in a bid to reform the industry for the better.

Railways bring much freight capacities and more direct routes in mining projects than road networks, as well as exclusive access for a steady and predictable supply to nearby ports.

The US$1,5 billion Manhize project will see the building of a major rail network, beginning with a 50km stretch linking Mvuma and Gweru; then up to 600 km to reach the Indian Ocean in Mozambique.

Dinson Iron and Steel Company (Disco), a subsidiary of Chinese metals giant Tsingshan Holdings, will further refurbish the existing rail infrastructure to enable it to transport inputs and outputs for the venture.

Manhize will produce 1,2 million tonnes of steel per year.

The steel plant project is a part of more than 3 000 projects across Zimbabwe that have been implemented by the government over the past four years.

The project will also come with other infrastructural developments in electricity, roads, water and the establishment of a new town. – Daily News