THE Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA) has received four new diesel-electric mainline locomotives and 18 new passenger coaches valued at US$22.4 million.
TAZARA head of public relations Conrad Simuchile said the new locomotives were expected to upgrade the current daily availability of mainline locomotives by 33 per cent to an average of 16 locomotives.
Mr Simuchile said the new equipment was purchased through the 15th protocol of economic and technical cooperation, a trilateral loan agreement signed by the three governments of China, Tanzania and Zambia on March 26, 2012 in Lusaka, for the supply of various equipment to TAZARA.
The delivery of the locomotives and coaches almost brings to completion the 12 projects with a value of US$42 million embarked on under the 15th protocol.
The last of the 12 projects covers locomotive and wagon spares which are expected to be delivered next month.
“The support funds under the protocols are an interest-free loan to the Tanzanian and Zambian governments, but with the specific aim of supporting the operations of TAZARA,’’ he said.
Mr Simuchile said the new equipment is expected to register a substantial impact on the operations of TAZARA which has been struggling from diminished capacity as a consequence of aged equipment that often suffered from the absence of scheduled maintenance due to inadequate finances.
He said infusion of four mainline locomotives raised the current daily availability of mainline locomotives by 33 per cent from 12 to 16 and was also likely to raise the locomotive reliability between failures by 18 per cent to 7,098 km from 6,015 km recorded in the 2014/2015 financial year.
He said the acquisition of new coaches for TAZARA puts the management on a ‘‘firm footing’’ to restore the good international standard and reputation for which the TAZARA passenger trains have been renowned.
“Over the years, the passenger service operational levels had dropped drastically to the very minimum, where four trains per week with barely 455,000 passengers were transported in the 2014/2015 financial year, compared to 10 years ago when the authority used to run six trains per week and convey more than 900,000 passengers annually.”
And acting TAZARA managing director, Ronald Phiri, noted that the economic and technical support from China had kept TAZARA afloat while awaiting the much-needed re-capitalization and restructuring by the shareholding governments of Tanzania and Zambia.
“We remain eternally grateful to the government and the people of China for their constant and positive association with TAZARA, which they helped build some 40 years ago and have continued to prop up unreservedly throughout the years,” he said.
Mr Phiri said over the years, the various protocols signed in support of TAZARA have been necessary and critical for the survival of the authority.
The 12 projects also included the supply of two shunting locomotives, various rescue and lifting equipment, track trolleys, assorted spare parts and 30,000 pieces of wooden sleepers as well as training of staff in various railway skills and attachment of Chinese railway experts to TAZARA over a period of three years.