Tanzania starts test runs on section of electrified SGR network

29th July 2022 By: John Muchira - Creamer Media Correspondent

In a major milestone on its journey towards modernising its railway network, Tanzania has started test runs on a section of its new electric-powered standard-gauge railway (SGR) line and has awarded the contract for Phase 4 of the entire SGR network, which stretches from Dar es Salaam to Mwanza, a distance of 1 219 km.

A maximum speed of 160 km/h is targeted on the section of the new electric SGR line from Dar es salaam to Morogoro. Covering a distance of 300 km, this section was constructed at a cost of $1.3-billion by Turkish company Yapı Merkezi. It forms Phase 1 of the Dar es Salaam–Mwanza SGR project.

The test runs, being carried out using two electric locomotives, started a day before Tanzania awarded the contract for Phase 4 of the project – entailing the construction of the 165 km section from Tabora to Isaka – to Yapı Merkezi. Phase 4 is expected to cost $900-million and will be implemented over 42 months, including six months of testing.

“These agreements are of special importance, as they complete the first phase of our modern railway line from Dar es Salaam to Mwanza and begin preparations to build the capacity of Tanzanians to operate and manage our railways instead of relying on foreign experts,” said Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan.

She added that the modern railway network would not only connect eight regions of Tanzania – Dar es Salaam, Coast, Morogoro, Dodoma, Singida, Tabora, Simiyu and Mwanza – but also provide vital links with Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and other African countries.

Once the new Phase 4 section has been completed, the country’s total investment in the SGR railway project will increase to $7.1-billion. The government of Tanzania has thus far paid contractors a total of $2.7-billion for work undertaken on the project.

The contractors include Chinese companies China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation and China Railway Construction, which are implementing Phase 5 of the project, covering a distance of 341 km from Mwanza to Isaka, at a cost of $1.3-billion.

Testing of the electric line forms the final stage before the commissioning of the Dar es Salaam to Morogoro line, which will enable passengers to travel between the two centres in one-and-a-half hours, about three hours less than when travelling by bus and up to five hours less than the time it took to travel by train on the old one-metre-gauge line.

South Korean conglomerate Hyundai Rotem is supplying Tanzania with 80 electric trains and 17 electric locomotives at a cost of $295.6-million.

The freight service, which is designed to travel at 120 km/h, is expected to reduce freight costs by 40%, thus contributing significantly to reducing the cost of doing business in Tanzania, which is vying to be the preferred gateway to the East Africa region.

Tanzania aims to replace the less efficient one-metre-gauge railway network built during the colonial era and is also betting on the electric SGR to cut carbon emissions. In East Africa, only Tanzania has managed to invest in an electric-powered railway system.