(eTN) – The Tanzanian government hosted a tripartite meeting of the Transport Ministers with Rwanda and Burundi on Friday, discussing the final submission of the feasibility study for the establishment of a rail link from Isaka to Kigali and Bujumbura. The meeting then went ahead to appoint a joint technical committee of experts, tasked to drive the agenda forward and ensure that the ambitious time frame will be met, with construction starting as soon as the upcoming tenders will have been processed and a main contractor selected. Initially thought to be in 2014, the commencement of construction might come as early as later this year already.
The project, said to cost in the region of US$5.2 billion, will include a full upgrading of the current railway line from Dar es Salaam to Isaka to standard gauge while the new stretch of railway from Isaka to Kigali and on to Bujumbura will be done from the onset as a standard gauge line. Finances for the project will to a large extent come from the African Development Bank and syndicate loan partners; the construction will take approximately 3 years to complete on all sections.
Up until now, Rwanda and Burundi, and, of course, Congo, too, via the Gisenyi/ Goma border point, depend on truck transportations of export and import goods, which makes the cost of commodities substantially higher as a result of the sharply risen cost of diesel and petrol. Increased competitiveness will be one major result of the new railway but also the link by rail to a major Indian Ocean seaport cutting the transportation time to a fraction of the current period which is often exceeding a month before cargos reach their final destination.
At least one tourism stakeholder regularly in touch from Dar es Salaam also sees the potential benefits of a new railway for passenger transport as he said: “For now it is busses for the wananchi to reach across the region. Most cannot afford air transport but a railway could bring us affordable fares. From Dar to Kigali it could take less than a day by rail on a new line. Now that will encourage a lot more people to travel, perhaps increase trade, too, on a lower level. I think such trips can be even sold to overseas tourists who like rail trips.”
Exciting days for sure with a number of major infrastructure projects coming up this year, and this rail project being one of the least contested by conservationists and environmentalists as it is.