CARGO haulage through the railway line within the country and beyond borders is set to increase by 30 per cent, thanks to the just signed accord.
Under the open access agreement on train operations between Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA) and Zambia Railway Limited (ZRL), each operator will run its trains all the way from Lusaka, Livingstone or Ndola in Zambia to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.
ZRL Chief Executive Officer Christopher Musonda, speaking at the agreement signing ceremony in Dar es Salaam yesterday, said besides boosting the cargo volume, the new arrangement will reduce cargoes moving through roads.
"This agreement will give room for ZRL to run its trains on the TAZARA network and vice versa without hindrance. The shift will be made faster, quicker and more efficient," noted Mr Musonda. He further noted that the removal of 30 per cent cargo from roads will also save the amount of funds incurred for maintenance, and channelled to other important spending.
The current level of traffic in the corridor, said Mr Musonda, does not support sustainability of the railway industry, the most serious challenge faced. "We should therefore gather suitable machinery as well as roll out the trial trains to anticipate the challenges and come up with desirable solutions immediately," he said.
TAZARA Managing Director Eng Bruno Ching'andu said that under the pact, an immediate increase in the volume of traffic by over 19,000 metric tonnes monthly is anticipated, translating into over 200,000 metric tonnes per year.
"These 19,000 metric tonnes per month are over and above the 15,000 metric tonnes of traffic per month that we already have," said Eng Ching'andu. He noted that TAZARA performance has been on the decline for a long time, citing performance indicator for the 2014/15 fiscal year when only 87,000 metric tonnes were transported, the record bad year for the authority.
But, the trend was reversed in the last two years, with 2015/16 recording at least 130,000 metric tonnes and 170,000 tonnes transported in the 2016/17 financial year. "We target 350,000 metric tonnes in this financial year, an improvement of over 100 per cent as compared to the previous year," he stated.
Eng Ching'andu decried declining capacity in terms of locomotives and wagons as factors hindering TAZARA from prospering. "As a result of low availability and reliability of the equipment, the authority has failed to cope with the huge demand from the market," noted the MD, reiterating TAZARA commitment to return to profitability and cease to rely on government subventions.
"We feel obliged to devise innovative strategies to sustain this company and stop depending on our governments," Eng Ching'andu added.