Tanzania: Lack of Railway Locomotives Diverts 13.4million Tons to Roads

Dar es Salaam — The poor condition of the railway transportation system has forced Tanzania to transport only 300,000 tons of products through the central railway out of the 13.7 million tons transported annually.

The Minister of Transport, Dr. Harrison Mwakyembe revealed this last week when the United Kingdom's Deputy Prime Minister, Nicholas William Peter Clegg was in talks with Tanzania's President, Jakaya Kikwete who was attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

President Kikwete was leading a delegation of Tanzanians to the forum which was also attended by Tanzanian minister for Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperation, Engineer Christopher Chizza.

Tanzania has a total of 3,676 km of railway lines, the Tanzania railways Limited (TRL) and the Tanzania Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA), but due to poor conditions of tracks and ageing rolling stock and locomotives, tonnage freight volumes and passenger numbers have continued to fall every year (from 60% of port cargo in the 70s and 80s to 7% currently).

Illustrating on the haulage challenges facing the country to the UK delegation, Mwakyembe said following railway dilapidation and lack of locomotive engines and wagons, the country was only able to transport 300,000 tons of shipments a year out of the supposed 13.7 million tons.

He noted that the remaining 13.4 million tons were being shipped through road system.

Earlier President Kikwete has requested Mr. Clegg and his government to provide Tanzania with used locomotive engines and wagons saying they might boost railway transport in the country and the East African nation.

President Kikwete however stressed that if all goes well, the locomotives and wagons will be used in Dar es Salaam and the central line.

The figures paint a picture of the actual transport situation in Tanzania where road construction is in progress, but the chances for road damage are exceptionally high in a short period of time, President Kikwete explained.

During the discussion, the president also requested the UK Deputy Prime Minister, Clegg to give a help hand in promoting Tanzania investment from UK by encouraging UK investors to invest in Tanzania.

"Your one word is more powerful that my speeches that I make to companies and owners of companies in UK," said Kikwete.

Tanzania is making efforts to ensure that its railway and especially the central railway, operates effectively. In December last year, the country the government signed an agreement with the Canada based Commercial Corporation (CCC) a Memorandum of Understanding to improve performance of the country's railway transport system.

Under the agreement, the Tanzania Railway Limited (TRL) is expected to update and improve its operations countrywide.

The Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of transport, Ms Monica Mwamunyange told East African Business Week that the investment was to focus on locomotive and wagons.

"It is among the various efforts being made to revive the country's railway sector," she noted adding: "The agreement guarantees improvements of locomotives and wagons to facilitate railway operations countrywide."

For his part, the Canadian High Commissioner Alexandre Levesque was quoted saying said Canada support will include maintenance and training services and refurbishment of Tanzania's railway systems.

"The two countries have been cooperating in the railway sector since 1972 during which the government of Canada provided 20 locomotives to the Tanzanian government," he said.

While the government is seeking for support to revive its railway system, floods caused by torrential rains swept bridges leaving thousands of passengers stranded and hundreds of vehicles stuck at Dumila in Morogoro district last month.

The government has not recovered the area, and the army is making operations to ensure that transport system comes to normal.

Apart from the said damage, at least 11 railway stations are said to have been washed away by floods.

Floods of this intensity were last experienced in 2008 in Kilosa District. The said floods washed away crops and houses.

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