News emerged over the weekend that the World Bank has offered Tanzania a US$300 million loan facility to improve the country’s central railway line, which runs from Dar es Salaam to Isaka in the west of the country. The money, when disbursed, will be used for line upgrades, repairs to sections of the railroad, and to culverts and bridges on a line which was earmarked to get extended from Isaka to Kigali and on to Bujumbura.
With the Northern Corridor’s plan to build a standard gauge railway from Mombasa, via Nairobi to the border with Uganda and then via Kampala to Rwanda, have these plans however gone notably silent and it could over the weekend not be established from sources in Kigali if this rail link was still to go ahead.
Only last Thursday did the three presidents of Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda meet in Nairobi to assess progress on a range of cooperation deals, which includes the railway link but also other joint projects including a refinery in Uganda to process oil almost on site and then distribute ‘white fuels’ into the region at substantially reduces transportation costs.
Meanwhile has Tanzania other rail projects it is presently upgrading, among them the Tazara Railway which connects the port of Dar es Salaam with Zambia and which is seen as a key transport link for imports, exports and peoples’ transport, though over past years hampered by mismanagement and poor upkeep, which resulted in falling cargo volumes and days of travel to reach from one end of the line to the other.
No word has been received about plans by Tanzania to build a railway from the coast near Tanga to the Lake Victoria town of Musoma, which was to be an alternate route for imports and exports from Uganda, as again the Ugandan government has become a partner in the new standard gauge railway from Mombasa.
Ambitious plans no doubt, all of them, but some experts have already suggested that too many rail lines from the coast into the hinterland may be unsustainable. As always time will tell but for now, the central rail line in Tanzania will have the funding to upgrade and improve services in coming years considerably.