5 July 2012

Tanzania: Rail Transport Vital for Country's Progress


IT is gratifying to note that efforts are being made to strengthen railway transportation in the country. The Ministry of Transport is preparing a circular to establish a Railway Infrastructure Fund for that purpose.

The Reli Assets Holding Company (RAHCO) has been mandated to establish and run the fund. This move raises hopes that the ailing railway transportation sector will be revived. Once upon a time, to quote the famous story telling opening cliché, Tanzania used to have a fully-operational railway network, with two main lines, the central line and the Tanga Line.

The former ran across the country from Dar es Salaam to Kigoma, branching off to Mwanza at Tabora. The latter covered the Moshi-Tanga route. Of the two lines, only the central one operates to this day though on an on- and-off basis. The Tanga one has come to a complete standstill.

It is a really pathetic situation much as it is an economic setback. In their heydays, the two lines played a vital role in the transportation of both goods and passengers, facilitating movement of the major cash crops like sisal, cotton and coffee to the seaports of Dar es Salam and Tanga.

The absence or poor performance of what remained of the railway network and the initial poor state of the country's roads made transportation of goods to and from the country's major seaport of Dar es Salaam and to the market places across the country was an economic setback.

In a commendable move, the government, in all its four phases so far, has gone an extra mile by investing in the construction of better roads as an alternative to the ailing railway network. Yet there should be an alternative goods and passenger transportation mode to supplement the road one. In this case, railway transport stands out, which points out to the urgent need to revamp it.

Serious efforts must be made to rehabilitate and possibly modernize the only operational central railway line to enhance its operations. The government must also do all that it can to revive the defunct Tanga Line. It also has a role to play.

Dependence on a mono surface transportation mode is certainly a setback in our quest for faster development and economic construction. Let's get over it.

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