RAILWAYS IN DEEP TROUBLE

Cartoon by Kipanya. Siri Kali (top secret) is a play on words for Serikali (government). The observer comments “Shouldn’t you change the bucket ?”

The 25-year $31 million contract agreement signed in 2007 between the government and Rail India Technical and Economic Services Ltd (Rites) under which Rites took over the majority 51% share of Tanzania Railways and agreed to manage it, has gone sour. Details of earlier developments were given in TA No 94.

Apparently, according to the East African, in an effort to improve railway services, TRL hired 23 passenger coaches from Rites. Inspectors from Tanzania visited the firm in India which was manufacturing them in 2008 and recommended changes. The coaches arrived in Tanzania in September 2008 and, after testing and further modifications, they started operating in January 2009. Unfortunately, in March, a passenger train collided with a goods train near Gulwe station. After an inspection, the government recommended that the coaches be suspended from operations pending an in-depth investigation. TRL stopped using the coaches on September 10.

In mid October the workers laid down their tools for eight hours because they claimed that the coaches ‘didn’t deserve to be used for carrying passengers and therefore there was no need to inspect them again.’ The Guardian then reported that Rites had issued a 60-day ultimatum to the government stating that, if it did not pay some $30 million for hiring the locomotives, Rites would leave the country.

Addressing TRL workers in mid-November Minister of Infrastructure Dr Shukuru Kawambwa said the government, though unhappy with TRL, could not immediately terminate the contract for fear of plunging the country into a deeper crisis and it could be taken to The Hague. The Minister said that the government had been using taxpayer’s money to pay salaries for TRL workers since March 2008, hoping that once the business picked up, the company would run on its own, but that had not been the case.

Meanwhile a promised loan of $44 million from the World Bank for TRL to undertake a massive rehabilitation of the railway system including the supply of 90 locomotives 1, 280 freight wagons and 110 passenger coaches was being held up.
According to Tanzania Daima, President Kikwete spent some time discussing the 60-day notice given to the government and then instructed the Minister to make a decision.

As this issue of TA went to press in December the Guardian reported that the Central Line had been paralyzed after workers downed tools over delay in paying salaries. A group of them stormed the company’s headquarters in an attempt to force the foreign and other senior management staff out of their offices, but the police stopped them.

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