by Ben Taylor

Progress with Standard Guage Railway
The Tanzania Railways Corporation (TRC) has embarked on testing of its electric train along the country’s recently constructed Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) line. Beginning in early December, the tests are running initially between Pugu in Dar es Salaam and Soga in Coast Region.

The South Korean-made train, coupled with the Turkish/Chinese-built railway line, is expected to be capable of reaching speeds of up to 160km per hour. This enhanced speed will significantly reduce travel times and facilitate the efficient movement of goods and people throughout Tanzania.

Later in December TRC took delivery of three new electric locomotives and 27 new passenger cars. This latest batch brings the total locomotives received to four and passenger cars to 56, paving the way for a smooth rollout of the modern railway service. “We’re steadily equipping ourselves for SGR operations,” affirmed TRC Acting Director-General Michibia Shiwa. He explained that TRC plans include 17 locomotives and 59 passenger cars already purchased for the project.

Shiwa emphasised that rigorous testing procedures were underway to ensure perfect compatibility between the trains and the newly built infrastructure, guaranteeing a safe and seamless journey.

The President, Samia Suluhu Hassan, has previously pledged that the new line will be operational no later than July 2024. Chief Government Spokesperson Mobhare Matinyi has reaffirmed that this deadline will be met: “There will be no other directive. No changes should be expected after the recent directive of the Head of State,” Matinyi declared, emphasising the government’s commitment to the President’s deadline.

He explained that the extensive trials required for each engine (10,000km) and coach (5,000km) before operation.

The introduction of the electric train and the expansion of the SGR network represent a major step forward in Tanzania’s transportation modernisation efforts.

These advancements are expected to stimulate economic growth, enhance trade connectivity, and improve the overall transportation experience for Tanzanians and their neighbouring counterparts.

Tanzania’s SGR is being built with Turkish and Chinese construction firms at an estimated cost of TSh 26 trillion (approx. GBP £8 billion).

Zanzibar also looks to (re)develop rail infrastructure
The President of Zanzibar, Hussein Mwinyi, is looking to follow the mainland example and steer Zanzibar towards transportation development.

He has ordered the immediate implementation of the long-dormant “Zanzibar Urban Public Transport Master Plan,” aiming to revamp the island’s public transport system with efficiency, sustainability, and economic growth in mind.

“The Zanzibar Social Security Fund (ZSSF) will partner with transport authorities to select a company that can bring modern buses to our city,” he declared. “Small cars can continue serving rural areas, but Zanzibar City deserves a modern fleet.”

He further called for a vision beyond roads, stating “We must rely on a modern, integrated, and efficient transportation network, and we must invest in it carefully. We should also plan for a railway network.”

Evoking Zanzibar’s historical connection to railways, President Mwinyi recalled the Stone Town-Bububu line from the 1870s. “It’s high time we restore this railway,” he asserted. “The need for a modern transport network is not just our own; it’s a global imperative for a sustainable future.”

There had indeed been a rail line in Zanzibar built in 1879, but it ran not to Bububu to the north but to the palace of Sultan Bargash bin Said in Chukwani, to the south of Stone Town. Initially the two Pullman cars were hauled by mules but in 1881 the Sultan ordered small steam locomotive from the UK. The railway saw service until the Sultan died in 1888 when the track and locomotive were scrapped. Later, between 1905 and 1930, a seven-mile rail route linked Stone Town and Bububu. The service was extremely popular and largely used by the native population.

UK inquest opened into death of UK national in Bukoba air crash
An inquest has opened in the UK into the death of a British citizen who died during the plane crash in which Precision Air flight PW-494 crashed at Lake Victoria in Bukoba in November 2022. Jonathan Rose, a resident of Suffolk, England, was one of 39 people (38 adults and one infant) on board when the crash occurred.

On November 14, 2023, a pre-inquest review hearing was held at Ipswich Coroner’s Court. Also present in court were legal representatives for Mr Rose’s family. The court heard that a final report from the Tanzanian authorities was being written but that this was expected “soon,” the publication reported.

Mr Stewart said that he believed it would not be necessary for a jury to be called to sit on Mr Rose’s inquest. However, expert witnesses may be called to help explain the technical difficulties the plane encountered.

Another pre-inquest review hearing will take place in six months when it is hoped the report from the Tanzanian authorities will be complete.

In November 2022, the Air Accident Investigation Branch of the then-Ministry of Works and Transport released a report that blamed the deaths of the passengers aboard the flight on the failure of the first responders to act with sufficient urgency upon being informed of the crash.

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