Lusaka – The Tanzania Zambia Railway Authority (Tazara) defied COVID-19-induced restrictions on economic activity to register four percent growth in freight volumes, though passenger traffic declined by nine percent in the financial year ending June 2020.
Tazara says it moved 182,302 tonnes in the period under review, compared to 175,597 tonnes a year earlier. Factoring in the 196,676 tonnes moved by Calabash Freight Ltd through an open access operational arrangement, Tazara’s total line capacity utilisation was up 4,5 percent on 2018-20119.
In addition to COVID-19, the bi-national logistics concern also had to contend with inadequate and inefficient rolling stock, and a landslide and wash-away that affected sections of the line.
While freight volumes firmed, passenger figures fell by nine percent from 3,046,002 people transported in 2018-2019 to 2,778,708 in 2019-2020. This was likely due to travel restrictions related to COVID-19 from March 2020.
The company is targeting to move at least 400,000 tonnes of cargo and 3,4 million passengers in the year ending June 2021. The Tazara board has also approved purchase of seven diesel-electric locomotives to boost the current fleet of eight mainline engines in the current financial year.
However, that acquisition as well as other proposed capital outlays amounting to US$558 million await shareholder approval, which translates to securing the permission of the Tazara Council of Ministers.
The expenditure of over half a billion dollars is at the core of Tazara’s proposed Revitalisation Bankable Business Plan, a short to medium-term strategy to grow the enterprise that is owned by the governments of Tanzania and Zambia.
The target is to achieve full operational profitability and self-sustenance by the end of the 2021-2022 financial year.