The Tanzania Zambia Railway (Tazara) is to rehabilitate 200 copper-carrying wagons for use on the line that runs from the Zambian copper field to the Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam. The railway’s handling capacity and range of services have steadily fallen over the past 10 years because of a lack of investment.
Tazara is owned by the governments of Tanzania and Zambia, who have consistently failed to upgrade infrastructure and equipment because of other demands on their finances. At the same time, however, the line’s management, the Tazara Authority, argues that it cannot regain market share without track upgrades and improving rolling stock.
Tazara was built in the 1970s with Chinese investment, as a means of exporting Zambian copper without going through Apartheid-era South Africa.
However, the railway is coming under increasing competition from those to other ports across Southern Africa that are keen to secure business from the copper trade, as well road haulage.
At present, the Tazara Authority has just 704 operational wagons out of a fleet of 1,094, and so, from June onwards, it plans to restore 20 of the unusable wagons each month at its Mpika workshop.
The two governments have paid millions of dollars in employee salary arrears over the past three months, and settled years’ worth of fuel bills. The Zambian government has injected US$3.2M, while Tanzania has allocated US$20.8M to pay Tanzaniabased employees’ salaries. New management has also been recruited, as part of ongoing efforts to revamp Tazara so that it operates in a sustainable and profitable manner.
Zambia’s transport and communications minister, Kapembwa Simbao, said: “The managing director and his deputy were recruited to ensure that Tazara management is held accountable on results, of which we have signed a performance-based contract with clear performance targets with the new managing directors.” A further US$40M has been invested by the Chinese government to provide some working capital.