THOSE who think the Standard Gauge Railway will be just another line of metals covering over one thousand kilometers length of the country, have a rude awakening coming.
The railway which will carry electric train will change significantly the menu of Dar residents, reducing notably the cost of food items on those menus.
The nation may be shifting its political capital to Dodoma, a town more centrally placed.
But its hitherto capital remains its commercial centre and keeps growing so rapidly that if it sneezes, the whole nation catches a cold.
Dar, as its residents adoringly refer to it, must not therefore sneeze.
The railway line starts in Dar es Salaam and meanders its path up country across a land of plenty livestock and an assortment of subsistence crops toTabora in the middle of the country where in forks into two branches.
One branch runs to its end in Mwanza by Lake Victoria. The other branch goes to Kigoma by Lake Tanganyika, the world’s second deepest lake.
Lake Victoria, the world’s third biggest fresh water lake and Lake Tanganyika has abundant fish which feed many urban residents throughout the country, particularly those living in the commercial city of Dar es Salaam with its close to five million habitants.
Otieno William a resident of Dar who hails from Mara north of the country by Lake Victoria and a huge consumer of the lake’s fish, says no fish in Dar es Salaam from the Indian Ocean compares to fish from Lake Victoria like tilapia or the Nile perch and other fresh water species he grew up on.
“I have lived in Dar es Salaam for over a decade,” says the casual labourer with the Harbours, “but I have found no fish with taste close to that of Sato (tilapia) or the Nile Perch.”
There are in Dar es Salaam thousands, indeed millions, of people from the regions bordering the two fresh water lakes, who prefer fish from fresh-water lakes to that of the Indian Ocean.
Not that fish from Lake Tanganyika, Lake Victoria and other six lakes in the country do not reach Dar es Salaam.
The journey from Lake Tanganyika and Lake Victoria, the two big lakes in the country, takes two days at most. By then the fish is less fresh and its taste has changed significantly.
Moreover, the amount that reaches the city is not much and many people who want lakes’ fish do not get it. For those who get the fish, the price is steep.
With the advent of a standard gauge railway there will be a revolution in the Mwanza and Kigoma-Dar es Salaam fish business.
Generally, food items from the countryside in the regions the railway will pass, stand to increase in the city of Dar. That change will reduce their prices and make them affordable to many.
The cost of transport for Dar residents travelling to the regions, say to regions beyond Mwanza, which is 1229 km away has increased several times over the years, reducing notably their visits to the village because they cannot afford annual trips to their villages. The result has been considerable. Their development projects in the village have slowed down, or come to a stop all together.
Left in a state of being stranger to their home land, urban residents from the rural, as it was, will have permanently migrated to the nation’s commercial centre with its nearly irresistible attractions of leisure and pleasure.
Wambura Nyakioma, a housewife in Ilala, Dar es Salaam, says she lastly went to her home village in Roria in 2002.
“The fare is too big to go there often and the journey is tiresome. If I go there, I leave behind some of my children,” says the mother of five.
Of course urban migration is caused by several other factors, but long, tedious and expensive journeys have played a major part by discouraging travels to the rural.
The Standard Gauge Railway will bring a considerable change in all this. In a way, it will be uniting more the rural and the urban communities with their back and forth travels.
The electric trains will be travelling at a speed of 160 km per hour and cover the 1229 km-journey across the country in a matter of ten hours.
Given that comfort, people will have a choice of travelling by train or by bus, which by far will be outrun by the train.
The amount of cargo the train will ferry will be several times bigger than what the present train carries today, boosting business between region and Dar several times over.
Cows slaughtered in Dar es Salaam come from upcountry. Transporting them to the city in lorries, which take a couple of days on the way, affects their health, hence reduced quality of their meat.
The train will ferry a bigger number of cattle in a healthier state and affect positively the price of meat.
By and large, the Standard Gauge will change the life of people in the country in some notable ways.
Medical gains too will be there. Many people are often referred to Muhimbili Medical Hospital for more advanced treatments.
The common method of travel for such people in distress has always been by plane.
With advent of Standard Gauge Train, more people will afford to take their referred sick to Muhimbili at a cheaper cost.