Dar’s economic rests on railway network efficiency

Resumption of the country’s railway network is inevitable if Tanzanian economy has to flourish and accelerate wealth creation for the economic prosperity of wananchi.

It’s economically proved that efficient railway system forms an integral part of sustained competitiveness and business wealth creation. The ailing Tanzania’s railway network has been the major cause of high transport costs, pushing up prices of almost all goods in the market, the burden that is always transferred to the final consumer.

Tanzania Railways Limited (TRL) has a 2,707 kilometre-long single track -gauge, with a design capacity of transporting five million tonnes of cargo per year. Yet, only about 10 per cent of the installed capacity is currently being utilised due to lack of investments to revamp the ailing railway network.

Tabling his ministry’s 2013/14 budget estimates in Dodoma last month, the Minister of Transport, Dr Harrison Mwakyembe, said TRL ferried 198,024 tonnes in 2012, 24.8 per cent lower compared to 267,008 of the corresponding year. 

Similarly, TRL ferried 505,223 passengers, which is 2.7 per cent down in the period under review compared to 519,036 in the previous year.

“The decline in cargo and passengers was contributed by the insufficient as well as depreciation of the locomotives and wagons. Also lack of funds and equipment as well as destruction of railway line contributed to the inefficiency,” he noted.

Currently, there are ongoing rehabilitations in various parts of the central line, the move that aims at reviving the railway to cater for the growing demands. Dr Mwakyembe said the new railway development plans are based on concrete analyses of areas where the line will yield quick economic gains.

For example, the areas with large iron and coal deposits like Liganga and Mchuchuma, Mtwara are of high priority in the government plans. Also there are plans to extend the central railway to Burundi to explore Nikel in Kabanga. 

Apart from saving fuel, an efficient rail system would help extend the life shelf of the country’s roads, that is, by protecting them from being damaged quickly by heavy duty vehicles.

This is based on the fact that the amount of cargo to be lifted by 40 trucks can easily fit into the 40 twenty-foot equivalent units from the port of Dar es Salaam to be transported by a goods train. 

According to Japanese Ambassador to Tanzania, Mr Masaki Okada, Tanzania could make maximum and efficient use of the existing railway gauge only if its capacity is increased before embarking on the new standard gauge system.

“The government of Japan is interested to invest in Tanzania’s railway network and this month some experts from TOSHIBA are expected to visit and survey the central line to come up with scientific advice on the improvement of the railway,” he said. 

In Japan, ambassador Okada noted, they use the same gauge as in Tanzania  and was performing efficiently. It ferries heavy cargo and has the speed between 100-240 kilometres per hour.

In March this year, a team of Japanese consultants submitted to the Ministry of Transport the report on the Comprehensive Transport and Trade System Development Master Plan on building an integrated Freight Transport Network.

According to the report, the standard gauge will be required when demand exceed the capacity of the rehabilitated metre gauge track possibly after 2030. 

Repair and rehabilitation could be short term strategy while longer trains, higher powered locomotives and more block trains in the midterm and network expansion in the long term strategies.

“The immediate conversion to standard gauge track is not recommended because the existing railway cannot suspend its operation and the present bridges not usable,” it stated. 

In efforts to decongest the Dar es Salaam city, ambassador Okada said the government of Japan was interested to support Tanzania in the rehabilitation and establishment of commuter trains.

Attending the fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD V) in Yokohama early this month, President Jakaya Kikwete visited Toshiba Science Museum where he was briefed on the company’s technological advancement in railway, renewable energy and electronics fields.

Toshiba Vice-President Hideo Kitamura said the company was capable of curbing the problem of traffic jams in Tanzanian cities through development of modern railways systems and locomotives.
Source: The Daily News, reported from Dar es Salaam
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