Here comes best opportunity to rebuild rundown railway

05Apr 2016
The Guardian
Here comes best opportunity to rebuild rundown railway

THE Tanga-Moshi-Arusha railway which was once the country’s best northern corridor transport link is, to say the least, no more.

Tanga Line, as it was then known, consisted of the main railway line from Tanga port to Moshi built by the Germans between 1896 and 1906, with a number of extensions to sisal estates and other key productive areas.

An extension to Arusha was built later during the British colonialist era, and then another tying it to the Kenyan railway at Voi from Kahe.

Being the first railway line in the country, it served to transport crops as well as passengers from the hinterland to the coast during the colonial period, thereafter playing a crucial role during the immediate post-independence years before the roads assumed their current dominance.

But while railways still remain a crucial means of transport even in the most developed countries, and have in fact become more modern, it is sad to see that in Tanzania, even the few that once existed have been consigned to oblivion.

A recent survey carried out by this paper has shown that much of the infrastructure has been left to rot, while rails and sleepers have been plucked off.

In places like Kisangiro in Mwanga district, railway stations have been pulled down, bridges demolished, humps leveled down, bats allowed to build permanent homes, and nature - which doesn’t always remain idle - has taken its course.

To put it in a nutshell, contrary to what works, communications and transport minister Prof Makame Mbarawa said at the weekend during his tour of Kigoma region, Tanga Line is no longer a railway to be proud of. If the government really wants to have one in place, it had better remove the remains of the last one and build a new one.

The minister did emphasize on the need to revamp the existing railway in order to consolidate transport services in the three regions of Tanga, Kilimanjaro and Arusha.

For one thing, it is an alternative to road transport which is not always a reliable means of transport, particularly when it comes to transporting heavy duty goods like gypsum, sisal, construction materials.

Consider, for example, the proposed Lake Albert (Uganda)-Tanga crude oil pipeline which will need 210,000 tonnes of bare pipes and materials and equipment for pipe insulation to be dispatched upcountry for its construction.

If Tanga Line was in good shape, it would definitely be the best way through for this project.

Tanga Line is also necessary because it offers a good panoramic-cum-tourist view of the undulating eastern arc mountains of the Usambara, Pare and Kilimanjaro.

Tanga Line also provides a vital link to the country’s main central railway line, the Tazara line, and Kenya railways. And last but by no means least, the rebuilding of Tanga Line would help revive the economies of the northern corridor regions which have become dormant with the dilapidation of the railway.

So as the government works to see that the crude oil pipeline from Uganda is built in Tanzania, there is also the pressing need to ensure that Tanga Line is rebuilt so as to offer carriage of building materials for the pipeline.

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