Tanzaniaoperates two separate Railway Transport systems. The Tanzania Railway Limited (TRL) which is owned by the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania operates the Central Line running fromDar es Salaamto Tabora with two branches; one to Kigoma in the west along lake Tanganyika, hence providing freight cargo transportation to the west of the country as well as the land-locked countries of Burundi, Rwanda and eastern part of Peoples Democratic Republic of Congo. The second branch runs from Tabora to Mwanza port on Lake Victoria, also providing transportation services to north and north-western part of the country including landlockedUganda.

The second railway system is theTanzania- Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA). This is a two country joint railway system. TAZARA links theportofDar es SalaamwithZambiaand handling freight cargo for the countries ofMalawi,Zambia,Zimbabweand Democratic Republic of Congo.

There are efforts to introduce for the first time in history; a Commuter Train inDar es Salaamscheduled to start operations in October 2012. It is expected to operate from Ubungo to Railway Station,Sokoine Drive. It will be an ordinary train system operated by fuel. Although these initiatives come very late, Consumers welcome them asDar es Salaamcommuter train will solve to some extent to decongest the city by eliminating some private cars on our roads.

It is Regardless of the importance to the economy attached to Railway Transport, Railway Transport has for a long time not been doing well due to a couple of reasons ranging from poor prioritization (budgetary constraints) to poor management. Railway Transport is operated on aged and outdated permanent way, weak bridges and shortage of locomotives and wagons which is a result of both poor prioritization and poor management.

A combination of the above mentioned reasons led to poor performance of railway transport inTanzania. This is evidenced by the decline in the number of passengers and freight traffic operated by Tanzania Railway Corporation in 2003 to 2006. While in 2003 TRC carried 615,000 passengers the number dropped to 594,000 in 2006. For the same period of time, freight traffic dropped from 1.446 millions tone in 2003 to 0.775 Millions tones in 2006.

The performance has not improved but is deteriorating at an alarming state. This deterioration has a direct impact to the economy of the country. Its direct impact is reflected in areas like congestion at thePortofDar es Salaam, road accidents, roads destruction, etc. Similarly the deterioration has a enormous economic impact to petty traders living along the rail line who used to sell their products, food stuffs and other commodities to passengers for example areas like Saranda in Singida Region where food stuff and “nyama choma” were abundantly sold to train commuters. Such businesses were ruined and therefore their income by poor performance of railway transport.

Besides economic gains that have been lost, the deterioration has also caused a number of inconveniences to passengers and freight traffic. The most affected are passengers from the Lake Zone and Kigoma Region.

In order to rescue this situation, the Government ventured into a joint venture with RITES ofIndia. During this Concession period the services deteriorated further such that the Government found it wise to terminate the venture.

It is difficult to discern the economic thinking of other stakeholders in this sector. If we capitalize on our geographical position alone, a well planed transport sub sector can feed this nation.  Thinking along that line it is imperative that the Railway Transport has to be revamped and this should not be a matter of choice but a necessity otherwise we choose to commit economic suicide.  Something needs to be done urgently to tape these opportunities which God gave our country free of charge. To utilize these opportunities it is imperative to enhance the capacity of the railway network through replacing light rails with heavier sleepers and rails of 80lb/yard. This should go hand in hand with rehabilitation of bridges to at least 25 axle load capacity. Rehabilitation of rolling stock is another measure that has to be undertaken. The present narrow Meter Gauge (1000mm) should be upgraded to a wider and modern “Standard Gauge”. To undertake a project of constructing  a new railway line from Isaka inTanzaniatoKigaliwith a branch to Musongati inBurundi. This will ensure freight traffic from both countries. Upgrading the existing railway line from Tanga to Arusha and construction of a new line from Arusha to Musoma is another measure which will linkUgandathroughLake Victoria. Efforts are being done, but what is needed at the end of the day is implementation of what is being discussed on the table. Another measure which is probably very important is to let private operator who may be willing to operate on the established infrastructure.

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