Tanzania: TAZARA’s future looks bright

By Nawa Mutumweno – The Tanzania Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA) has signed an agreement with the Chinese Civil Engineering and Construction Company (CCECC) for the manufacture and supply of six mainline locomotives and spare costing $16.4 million.

According to media reports, the agreement signed was signed on Monday, November 1, 2010 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. It is a follow up to the 14th Protocol signed by the Chinese, Tanzanian and Zambian governments covering the repair of rescue and loading equipment, rehabilitation of three shunting locomotives and training of staff on a long-term basis.

TAZARA managing director, Akashambatwa Mbikusita-Lewanika signed on behalf of Zambia and Tanzania, joint owners of TAZARA, while CCECC representative Miao Zhong signed for his company.

The $16.4 million forms part of the approximately $40 million loan that the Government of the People’s  Republic of China granted the railway firm through the two governments of Tanzania and Zambia under the 14th Protocol  in December 2009.

Under the deal, CSR Qishuyan Locomotive Company Limited of China would manufacture the locomotives on behalf of CCECC, under licence of the renowned General Electric (GE) of the USA.

The six locomotives expected to be delivered by December 2011, are fitted with 3000 horsepower diesel electric engines which are ideal for the TAZARA terrain.

The manufacture of these locomotives signals an improved delivery of transport services for the company and enhanced operations, according to Mr. Mbikusita –Lewanika.

TAZARA was established in March 1968 with survey and design work commencing in October 1968. This was completed in May 1970.

In July 1970, China agreed to give Tanzania and Zambia an interest free loan which was to mature after thirty years  amounting to Yen 988 million (about $500 million at the time) to cover costs of constructing  the line and supporting infrastructure of stations and the supply of motive power and rolling stock.

Construction of the line started in October 1970 with Presidents Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia officially inaugurating the commencement of works at Dar es Salaam and Kapiri Mposhi respectively.

The track crossed the Tanzanian border at Tunduma into Zambia at Nakonde in August 1973. By June 1975, the line reached Kapiri Mposhi, two years ahead of schedule. Trial operations continued for a year until July 1976 when full operations commenced after TAZARA was formerly handed over to Tanzania and Zambia by China.

When the 1, 860 kilometre long rail line was finally completed, almost 89 million cubic metres of earth and rock had been moved, and 320 bridges, 22 tunnels and  2, 225 culverts were built.

What began as a mere concept on paper transformed into an engineering feat of repute and today stands as the greatest symbol of friendship between the nations of China, Tanzania and Zambia.