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Tanzania to spend US$85 million in 2013-14 to improve rail infrastructure

The railway upgrades are part of the Tanzanian government’s plan to accelerate country’s development between 2011 and 2016. (Image source: Barbara Stoessel/

Tanzania has set aside US$85mn for upgrading its rail services in the financial year 2013-14 to ease cost of transportation within the country and to eastern and southern Africa

The country is connected by rail to Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries of Malawi and Zambia. Rail services also connect Dar es Salaam, on the Indian Ocean, to Rwanda, Burundi and Democratic Republic of (DR) Congo to the west.

Part of the money will be used to import 13 locomotives from the US and also the purchase of new cargo and passenger wagons. Tanzania Railways Limited (TRL) will receive some money for general repairs.

TRL officials say that long-term plans include purchasing 58 locomotives, 1,960 freight wagons, 44 passenger wagons and upgrades that are estimated to cost US$680mn. Around US$3.7mn has, so far, been spent on renovating trains carriages and rail infrastructure for the TRL.

Plans are already underway to invest US$330mn to upgrade and coordinate rail services with those in southern and central Africa.

A tripartite agreement between three state-owned rail authorities namely Tanzania Zambia Railways Authority (Tazara), Zambia Railways Limited (ZRL) and Societe Nationale des Chemins de Fer Du Congo Sarl of DR Congo would facilitate smooth transportation of goods and passengers across the region.

At the same time, Tazara and ZRL have signed a deal to expand the railway system to facilitate trade between southern and eastern Africa.

The new initiative will later include connection to DR Congo and will enhance trade between Zambia, DR Congo and the port of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

According to Harrison Mwakyembe, Tanzanian minister for transport, the government, through Tazara, has secured US$39mn from China to buy six new locomotives, 90 wagons and spare parts as well as renovate nine locomotive engines.

The Dar es Salaam–Dodoma rail line that connects the country to Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda will be upgraded and is expected to carry 35mn tonnes of freight. On the other hand, Zambian authorities are expected to give US$32mn for the upgrade of the Tazara line.

Tanzania is also seeking US$13.3bn to finance infrastructure projects that include the rehabilitation of the railway line from Dar es Salaam to Tabora as well as the Kaliua-Mpanda line to Kasanga Port on Lake Tanganyika inside the country.

“The project is crucial in linking Dar es Salaam port with the landlocked countries of Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda,” added Stergomena Tax, Tanzania’s permanent secretary in Ministry of East African Community.

This is estimated to cost US$1.42bn.

According to Canadian consultancy firm Canarail, hired to conduct a feasibility study, the railway line to connect Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania would cost US$5.2bn and take four years for completion. The Dar es Salaam-Isaka-Kigali/Keza-Gitega-Musongoti rail project is expected to lower Rwanda and Burundi’s transport costs.

The landlocked nations of Rwanda and Burundi will, meanwhile, have to bear high transportation costs of ferrying goods from both ports of Mombasa, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Analysts say that this has increased the cost of doing business in the two countries.

Part of the East African Community infrastructure development, the railway line from the two countries is expected to cut the time it takes to transport cargo from Dar es Salaams by road from four days to two days by rail.

“There is no other way for Rwanda to cut the price of goods without this project. Air transport has its limitations, especially the high transportation costs, and the railway line would be more favorable to traders,” said Alex Nzahabwanimana, state minister in-charge of transport at the Ministry of Infrastructure.

The railway upgrades are part of the Tanzanian government’s plan to accelerate development between 2011 and 2016.

Mwangi Mumero

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