KAMPALA, Uganda (eTN) – The Chinese-built railway between Tanzania’s commercial capital Dar es Salaam and Zambia, TAZARA, now also appears to be in some problems, which were overshadowed by the more intense media coverage across the entire region about the Kenyan and Ugandan railway operator Rift Valley Railways in recent weeks.
It now emerged that TAZARA was compelled to reshuffle its top management in late August but without the fanfare and media attention its fellow operator in Kenya and Uganda attracted.
Reports have also come to light about Chinese demands to the two governments to repair the railway line before it collapses and needs an expensive rebuilding.
China earned political standing in Africa when it supported Southern African nations in their liberation struggle by building a “safe” supply line from the Indian Ocean port of Dar es Salaam to Zambia, which was considered too far for the apartheid regime in South Africa to strike at, but still allowed supplies for the liberation movements to come in unimpeded.
As a result of the infrastructural and managerial problems, it seems that the two governments have somewhat reluctantly agreed to permit a Chinese company to take over the railway management, and that details are awaited from the Chinese side to which investors consortium they intend to hand the contract.
As earlier reported, the Tanzania Railway, not identical to the TAZARA railway, is also aiming to improve capacity by importing new wagons from India and overhauling their own rolling stock and locomotives. Recent increases in the cost of fuel have highlighted the need to offer viable transport alternatives by rail, and the extension of the Tanzanian railway system to Rwanda in coming years will add to capacity and cheaper transport options to exporters and importers. Watch this space.