According to the Minister of Works, Transport and Communication, Prof Makame Mbarawa, the number of rail passengers in Tanzania rose 77% in 2016, from 335,000 in 2015.

Anticipating this boost in demand, fundamental changes to the national rail network began back in 2013, when international standard gauge upgrades became a favoured catchphrase among railway network authorities across central and southern Africa.

The minister underscores the USD330 million standardisation project between the national rail operators of Tanzania, Zambia, and the Democratic Republic of the Cong – respectively TAZARA, Zambia Railways, and Societe Nationale des Chemins de Fer Du Congo. Rail transport follows roads in terms of significance, and is a vital component of long-distance freight delivery.

Tanzania’s railway lines extend over 3,676km, operated by two railway systems – Tanzania Railways Corporation (TRC) and Tanzania-Zambia Railways (TAZARA).

The 1,860km TAZARA line comprises 975km in Tanzania itself, and 885km in Zambia.

The main line is the central corridor linking the port of Dar es Salaam to the east, and the central and western regions of the country, ending in the west at Kigoma on Lake Tanganyika. A new network in the pipeline, suitable for greater cargo volumes to Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, and the DRC, will service domestic needs, reducing transit times, and giving the road network a run for its money.

The scheme features a USD 6.7 billion, 2,561km standard gauge railway (SGR) linking the Dar es Salaam port to Rwanda and Burundi. Furthermore, two additional lines will connect Dar es Salaam to the coal, iron ore, and soda ash mining regions in northern and southern Tanzania, with a price ticket of USD 6.6 billion.

By Angel Navuri

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