Tanzania – Zambia Railway Under Tests To Improve Profitability

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The Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA) has recently announced that a Chinese team from the Shanghai Institute for International Studies (SIIS) has executed an experimental test-ride over the 1,860 km railway connecting Kapiri-Mposhi in Zambia’s central region with Dar Es Salaam’s port in Tanzania, to identifying operational challenges in order to develop a framework that would bring lasting solutions to run it profitably in the near future.

The Chinese team conformed by five experts on International Relations and Global Development led by SIIS’ Professor Yang Jiemian, was accompanied by the Chinese Ambassador to Zambia Yang Youming while developing the experimental test over 20 km of the Tanzania-Zambia Railway in New Kapiri-Mposhi.

The Tanzania-Zambia Railway plays a key role not only in Zambia’s social and economic development, but also in terms of trading between China and Africa due to its volume’s capacity of cargo, explained Ambassador Yang.

According to TAZARA statistics, the railway can carry up to 5 million tonnes of cargo per annum (mmt/y) even though it has reduced its tonnage from 1.20 mmt/y to 0.34 mmt/y in the last 20 years.

This encouraged the Chinese Government to award TAZARA with a USD 42 million fund in 2012 to double the number of locomotives in operation by the end of 2015, as well as the provision of lifting equipment to support handling costs’ reduction.

The Chinese Government is not the only entity supporting improvements to revive the Tanzania-Zambia Railway.

In 2014 TAZARA signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Dutch trading company Trafigura Beheer BV to modernize locomotives and raise the capacity of copper transported to Dar port from 8,000 metric tonnes per month (mmt/m) to 30,000 mmt/m by 2018 according to Bloomberg.

The upgrades on the Tanzania-Zambia Railway are in line with a wider program undertook by the East African Community (EAC) to modernize its 7,363 km of rail lines for a total investment of USD 29 billion, of which TAZARA is expected to fund USD 211 million within the next three years, Bloomberg reported.