Heavy rains bring train traffic into central Tanzania to a halt


(eTN) – The recent heavy rains in parts of Tanzania, and the resulting damage done to bridges and rail lines, have resulted in traffic from Dar es Salaam into the central part of the country being suspended, at least until January 21, but longer depending on the weather conditions. Repairs to the damaged Bububu River bridge are being carried out as a matter of urgency and work teams are trying to shore up the bridge to allow trains to pass.

With the suspension of rail traffic, hundreds of passengers are now reportedly stuck both upcountry as well as in Dar, waiting for trains to resume service, but the offer of full refunds of prepaid tickets has already resulted in many travelers switching to busses to reach their destinations. Would-be passengers are advised to check in advance if the route is open for traffic to allow them make alternate travel arrangements.

In a related development, it was also confirmed that the Tanzanian government has only offered 21 billion Tanzania shillings in order to reach a settlement with Indian firm RITES compared to the asking price of 125 billion TShs. The two partners (government had after a lengthy process selected the Indian firm to manage Tanzania Railways and invest in the company) are clearly on a divorce path now, and this development is also reminiscent of the saga of Air Tanzania, where government had to come to the rescue to resolve a similar split with South African Airways a few years ago, leaving ATCL moribund and financially crippled.

However, in aviation, at least companies like Precision Air and Fly 540 (T) did step into the breach and offered arguably even better services, but the railways business is different and requires to operate and not go broke or come to a standstill. Strikes by staff in the recent past and the current operational problems due to flooding of key routes have made government’s task not any easier. This is leaving the Tanzanian government only limited room to maneuver in the great bargaining now underway over how much they have to pay to get rid of the erstwhile choice partner now turned into a public villain.