The Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA) has registered a four percent improvement in freight traffic in 2020 compared to the previous financial year which ended 30 June 2019.
Freight traffic volumes transported by TAZARA for this financial year increased from 175,597 metric tonnes in the 2018/2019 financial year to 182,302 metric tonnes in 2019/2020.
This came to light during the 115th virtual Board Meeting chaired by Permanent Secretaries responsible for Transport in Tanzania and Zambia, Leonard Chamuriho and Misheck Lungu respectively held yesterday.
In a statement to the media in Lusaka yesterday by TAZARA Head of Public Relations, Conrad Simuchile said however, that the performance was suppressed by limitations arising from insufficient and unreliable rolling stock (locomotives and wagons) and two natural disasters (landslide/wash-aways) that occurred during the period under review.
Mr. Simuchile noted that the board also reviewed performance of the passenger traffic which has declined by nine percent due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to the suspension of cross-border passenger trains from March 2020 up to date.
In financial terms, the above performance resulted in overall revenue earnings of US$27.52 million for the financial year ended 30 June 2020, including US$4 million earned from other non-operational income as well as Open Access Fees paid by Calabash Freight Ltd, the private operator plying on the TAZARA line.
He noted that the board also approved a budget proposal for the transportation of 400,000 metric tonnes of freight traffic and 3,400,000 passengers for the year ending 30 June 2021, from which US$48.27 million operational and non-operational income is projected to be generated for operations.
Mr. Simuchile added that the board was happy with the repair and addition of seven Diesel Electric Mainline Locomotives to the current average running fleet of eight mainline locomotives for freight traffic, following the shareholders’ grant subventions in the last three years.
He explained that with the enhancement in motive power, the board expected the challenges that the Authority had been grappling with to reduce.
The board also reviewed and authorized the proposed Revitalization Bankable Business Plan (RBBP) with an investment outlay of US$558 million, which will be submitted to the shareholders for approval and funding, through the TAZARA Council of Ministers.
RBBP will provide a strong short-to-medium term blueprint for the required transformational actions that are anticipated to turnaround the operations of TAZARA and firmly put the Authority on a positive business trajectory, with the desired outcome being the achievement of full operational profitability and self-sustenance by the end of 2021/2022.
Board directed the authority to contract more private operators in the transportation of freight traffic on the TAZARA line through Open Access, which had contributed to a substantial diversion of freight traffic away from the roads and, therefore, aided in slowing down the deterioration of the roads in both countries.
Mr. Simuchile, further stated that the Board also resolved to incorporate the Land Transport Regulatory Authority of Tanzania and the Government Inspector of Railways of Zambia in setting out regulatory procedures and benchmarks for TAZARA’s open access operations.