Burundi-Rwanda-Tanzania Transport Ministers Discuss Railway Project

Tanzania transport ministers are meeting with the ministers of Rwanda and Burundi to discuss the anticipated railway line project that will run from Dar es Salaam port via the Isaka ‘dry port’ and on to Kigali.

The current railway line, which runs from Dar es Salaam to Isaka, includes a narrow gauge line and dates back to the 1900s.

Plans to upgrade the railway are part of the Central Development Corridor (CDC) for Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi.

Based on the combined improvements to the Port of Dar es Salaam and the construction of the new rail link from Isaka to Kigali, the CDC is expected to increase the transportation of cargo from the Dar es Salaam port to the ‘dry port’ in Isaka, at which point it will then be redirected to land-locked Rwanda.

The total cost of this project could end up being as much as USD 3 million.

Following the post-election violence that erupted in Kenya last February, Rwanda began importing its cargo into the country via Tanzania mostly by road, which proved to be very costly because of the long distance.

With this in mind, the Government of Rwanda has recently begun discussions with its regional neighbors in Tanzania and Burundi to speed up a long-standing plan to extend the current railway line to Kigali.

The latest meeting between these three countries, which is being held in Dar es Salaam, is intended to help speed up the implementation of the CDC and also to finalize some of the project’s details.

According to a report in the New Times, the final development draft that will establish a railway line from Isaka to Kigali has been completed.

Linda Bihire, the Rwanda Minister of Infrastructure, spoke with the New Times and told them that she expects the project to commence no later than the end of 2009.

“We have gotten grants from the US Government summing to $653,600 and $3.5million from Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF) during our visit to Washington,” said Bihire, “ now we have finished signing a contract to upgrade Dar es Salaam port to conform to the standards [and] probably by next year upgrading will begin.”

Bihire went on to say that the grant that was awarded under the US African Trade Lanes Partnership will be used to evaluate the economic and technical feasibility of the proposal to upgrade the railway from a narrow gauge to a standard gauge.

This upgrade will allow trains to carry more weight than before and will move trains up to three times faster than the current system allows.