Dar es Salaam — The start of the modern train services in Tanzania is moving closer after the government signed $60 million (about Sh138 billion) contracts with a South Korean firm to supply trains for the standard gauge railway (SGR).
The government through the Tanzania Railway Corporation (TRC) is constructing a 2,561-kilometer SGR network that links Dar es Salaam, Mwanza, Kigoma, Katavi and neighboring countries of Rwanda, Burundi and DRC.
The over Sh7 trillion project is being implemented in phases with the first round covering 300km between Dar es Salaam and Morogoro.
TRC director general Mr Masanja Kadogosa said the first phase is completed by about 95 percent so far and that the government had signed contracts for supplying of the electric trains.
"We expect to start testing early next year after getting approval from the transport regulator. So far, we have signed contracts worth $60 million with a South Korean firm to supply the trains," he said during a tour to the flagship project on Friday.
Mr Kadogosa said there will be some series of contracts but up to now the government had signed the contracts worth $60 million.
"Currently, we are finalising the first phase with some finishing activities in the first piece," he said.
The tour involved some media representatives and local artistes including musicians, actors and actresses as well as comedians to witness the progress made.
The visitors used a train between Soga and Ruvu in Coast Region to see the railway and witness the modern stations which were being finished.
Mr Kadogosa and the chief government spokesperson, Dr Hassan Abbas,i led the visitors and brief about the project which is expected to simplify transportation of passengers and cargo currently dominated by buses and trucks respectively.
The second phase which is under implementation involves 422km between Morogoro and Makutupora in Singida.
Mr Kadogosa said the government had already paid $534 million for the first phase and $400 million for the second phase while other phases are still under negotiations.
Recently, the government issued a tender for the Isaka-Mwanza route and Mr Kadogosa said the tender may be opened next month.
The SGR project has been one of campaigning platforms for Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) presidential candidate John Magufuli who seeks re-election to finish the projects he started.
Another unfinished big project is the Nyerere hydropower dam which is expected to generate 2,115 megawatts.
However, the opposition criticise him arguing that such development activities are not people-centred.
The railway which will use electricity to move trains will travel at 160km per hour and transport 10,000 tonnes of freight which is equivalent to 500 cargo trucks.
Upon completion, the SGR project is expected to payback the investment value after 15 years from completion.
Mr Kadogosa is optimistic that the project which will also serve neighbouring countries from the port of Dar es Salaam will have return on investment above 18 percent.
The government also planned to have an electronic card that will be used to pay for travel in the SGR trains, Bus Rapid Transit, marine transport as well as shopping in the railway malls to be established.