27 May 2014

Tanzania: Railway Transport Revamp Plans Very Commendable

THE government has announced plans to revitalize the ailing railway transport sector with an injection of new locomotives and coaches and upgrading of the existing rickety lines.

The Minister for Transport, Dr Harrison Mwakyembe, unveiled the measures when he presented budget estimates of his ministry in Parliament last Saturday. He said 13 new locomotives, 22 passenger coaches, 274 cargo wagons, 34 brakes and 24 gravel-carrier wagons will be procured and eight coaches will be constructed.

We would like to commend the government for coming up with the measures to revive the ailing railway transport sector after years of financial and management problems. We understand that reviving the existing railway is a costly undertaking but we subscribe to the idea as worth doing because the importance of having an efficient railway system cannot be overemphasized.

It does not need a discerning eye to see how critical railway transport is to the economy and the health of local, national, and global markets. No other form of ground transportation can move the volumes of cargo like freight rail does.

Railway transport fuels economic growth efficiently and in a more environmentally responsible way. Secondly, railway transport is less expensive, more efficient and better than road transport in terms of fuel consumption, spare parts and destruction of the roads.

Experts agree that an economy that relies heavily on road transport, as in our current state, becomes fragile and susceptible to shocks such as oil price fluctuation. Our ailing railway network has been increasing pressure on the roads and inflating transport costs that lead to high prices of almost all goods in the market which is passed over to the consumers.

We therefore need an efficient railway transport to reverse that and support our growing local economy by opening business and jobs opportunities. We need an efficient railway transport to help Tanzania become a regional transport hub by tapping businesses from the growing economies in the land-locked heart of Africa from Uganda to Malawi.

We have noted the intent of the government to invite private sector investments in the railway transport sector. It is important that the private sector is encouraged to run some activities in the sector through public private partnerships (PPPs) to increase efficiency.

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