China in rail upgrade talks with Tazara owners

10May 2016
SYLIVESTER DOMASA
The Guardian
China in rail upgrade talks with Tazara owners

A tripartite meeting involving Tanzania, Zambia and China was held yesterday in Dar es Salaam to review a feasibility study that seeks to revive the USD 500million Tazara Railway and enhance its operations over the next four decades

Tazara rail crossing bridge

A team of technical experts and government representatives at the Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority (Tazara) are working to breathe life into the underperforming railway whose traffic dropped from 601,229metric tonnes in 2006 to a mere 87,860metric tonnes last year.

Between 2006 and 2015, the volume of throughput cargo at the port of Dar es Salaam stood at 6 and 15million metric tonnes respectively.

Tanzania’s Chief Secretary Eng John Kijazi said apart from reviewing the feasibility study report on reforming the icon of China-Africa friendship, the meeting deliberated capital crisis as well as legal and management challenges.

“We in the government believe these challenges can be addressed and we are eager to do just that in collaboration with all partners,” Eng Kijazi said.
“We are mindful of the fact that a well established and functioning infrastructure network comprising of railways, roads, air and maritime transportation is the key to achieving a vibrant industrial economy,” he added.

According to the Chief Secretary, the government is currently working on improving the Dar es Salaam port and later the Bagamoyo port; “so all cargo discharged t both ports will require a vibrant railway network to transport,” he said citing also constructing a 40km long railway to link the Bagamoyo Special Economic Zone (SEZ) with the Tazara railway line at Pugu substation.

Dr Rowland Msiska, Secretary to the Cabinet of the republic of Zambia reaffirmed his government’s commitment to accelerate reforms to a more commercially viable and self-sustaining railway; “we are looking for a win-win situation in these deliberations to improve the infrastructure,” he said.

He said the current demand for surface transport for trade items destined for Zambia from the Port of Dar es Salaam stands at 2.5million metric tonnes which is equivalent to 15per cent of the total volume of throughput cargo registered at the port last year.

“Even if we can opt for other routes, Tazara remains the easiest and most affordable way to transfer goods from China to Zambia and vis-as-vis,” he admitted.

While the average cost to transport goods stands at about 5 cents per tonne for every kilometer of railway, the cost jumps to 12cents for the same weight and distance when using road transport.

“Reviving Tazara will significantly reduce the cost of doing business resulting in increased competitiveness and positive impact on the overall cost of living,” Dr Msiska added.

Liu Junfeng, Deputy Director General from the Ministry of Commerce of China assured the delegates that the Chinese government is committed to ensure the idea of the founding fathers of China, Zambia and Tanzania is realized.

“This infrastructure is key to sustainable development of both countries,” he said.

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