New railway plans becoming reality …


(Posted 03rd June 2015)

Tanzania’s Minister for Transport Samuel Sitta last weekend confirmed that the Tanzanian government had put pen to paper with two Chinese companies for the construction of two new rail lines.

One of them, to be built in Standard Gauge, will eventually connect the port of Dar es Salaam with the hinterland countries of Rwanda, Eastern Congo and Burundi and will cover a distance of over 2.500 kilometres. This new line along the so called Central Corridor, where a narrow gauge line is already running up to the town of Isaka, is estimated to cost about 7.8 billion US Dollars. Funds will come, according to information received, from the Chinese government, internal financial sources mobilized by the Tanzanian government and from the African Development Bank.

A second brand new rail line will also be constructed to link Dar es Salaam with the southern city of Mtwara, where off shore some of the world’s largest natural gas deposit fields has been discovered and is in the early stages of production. The cost for this 1.000 kilometre long line is estimated to be in the region of about 1.4 billion US Dollars and will be extended to reach some of Tanzania’s major coal and iron ore deposits identified in recent years and earmarked for mining.

This development confirms earlier assertions made here that these two proposed lines will probably the most likely to take off as the region scrambles to improve transport infrastructure to open up trade and travel. Also due for a major refurbishment is the TAZARA railway line which connects Dar es Salaam with Zambia, built for the very purpose of giving Zambia – during the years of the South African independence struggles – a safe passage for imports and exports to the sea after the Apartheid regime had cut rail links to its seaports for Zambia in retaliation for her support to liberation forces.

No affirmation has come from Dar es Salaam though about another project which was to link a new port near Tanga with the town of Musoma on Lake Victoria, a project which will probably be shelved and substituted with a general upgrade and modernization to the present line from Dar es Salaam to the Lake Victoria port of Mwanza.

Across the northern borders of Tanzania, in Kenya, are two major rail projects underway too, the Northern Corridor SGR from Mombasa via Nairobi, the Ugandan border, Kampala to both Kigali and Juba – already under construction in Kenya while Uganda is due to break ground later in June – while the LAPSSET project is to connect the new port of Lamu with both Addis Ababa and also Juba in South Sudan.