Indian engineering company RITES has signed a US$81.2 million contract to supply diesel locomotives and wagons to the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ), Zimbabwe’s first purchase of new rolling stock in decades.

RITES will supply 3,000-horsepower diesel electric locomotives and high-sided open wagons, according to a stock exchange filing in India by the company on Friday.

“However, the contract agreements are subject to the approval of funding by the funding agency,” RITES said.

While the statement does not give details, a recent NRZ report to Parliament said it was negotiating a US$115 million contract, funded by the African Development Bank, that would cover seven locomotives, 315 wagons, five diesel multiple units and also include some infrastructure rehabilitation.

Once delivered, the locomotives would be the first that NRZ has bought since 1992. NRZ last bought wagons in 1997.

NRZ once moved 12 million tonnes per year, but now only hauls 2.3 million tonnes annually, general manager Respina Zinyanduko told a parliamentary committee earlier this year.

“All equipment has long passed its sell-by date,” she said. Among the few locomotives still running are some that are 40 years old – almost twice their lifespan.

The collapse of rail has limited the plans of mining companies and industries, forcing them to switch to more expensive road transport, which has weighed on road infrastructure. To move products to customers, the growing mining industry is now putting in its own money to fix NRZ’s broken-down trains so that they are usable.

Among these are Zimasco, one of the country’s biggest ferrochrome producers, which plans to spend US$2.46 million to refurbish 100 wagons and six NRZ locomotives.

In exchange, these trains would be dedicated to Zimasco traffic, although other customers can use them when Zimasco doesn’t need them.

Coal companies have also proposed to spend US$14.8 million on wagon refurbishment so that they can move coal to Maputo.

RITES, 72.2%-owned by the Indian government, made a profit of US$17 million in the last quarter and had an order book of US$720 million, according to its latest financials.

Recently, RITES exported locomotives and wagons to Mozambique, which were commissioned at an event also attended by President Emmerson Mnangagwa. At that event, RITES officials said its Cape Gauge Diesel Locomotives are capable of hauling 2,255 tonnes at 100kmph.