SGR transport revolution, cutting carbon emissions

Tanzania will this year start transporting passengers and cargo through its new Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), which will bring a revolution not only in Tanzania, but also in Eastern and Southern Africa.

Tanzania’s SGR and other railway services are owned by the government, with the public entity, Tanzania Railway Corporation (TRC) being the main custodian for running, operating and supervising all processes and overseeing infrastructure safety.

The SGR is partly completed and under construction at the same time in different lots, starting at the heart of the city of Dar es Salaam, the largest city in East Africa.

The first plan is to have 1,219 km from the shores of the Indian Ocean at the port city of Dar es salaam to Mwanza city and the shores of Lake Victoria.

Last month, it was disclosed that the government has invested 10.04 billion US dollars, equivalent to 23.3trl/-, in the construction of Dar-Mwanza and Tabora-Kigoma SGR lines, the latter which covers 506-kilometers distance, once completed in the next three years will allow an expansion plan to Gitega in Burundi.

President Samia Suluhu Hassan has repeatedly bragged on the economic benefits of SGR and the role it will play not only in reducing business costs but also on environmental conservation aspect associated therewith.

“This SGR will minimise harm to the environment because it will use electricity, while minimising environmental effects unlike other means of transportation being used in other countries.

It is a corridor to link the seaport with a number of African countries,” the Head of State said recently while witnessing the signing of a contract for the last lot.

The President further explained that SGR crosses the regions of Dar es Salaam, Coast, Morogoro, Dodoma, Singida, Tabora, Shinyanga and Mwanza. The train will be powered by electricity, which will have a positive impact on the environment compared to other modes of transport which burns carbon from fossil fuel, causing environmental disasters

Once completed, the electric powered railway will link the country to the neighbouring countries of Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda subsequently to the Democratic Republic of  Congo, as part of the East African Railway Master Plan. The SGR intends to complement other transportation means like the old metre-gauge railway system and roads.

It will also ease transfer of goods between the port of Dar es Salaam and the cities of Kigali in Rwanda, Bujumbura in Burundi and Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

At the Lake Victoria port of Mwanza, surface water ferries are expected to transport goods between Mwanza and other parts of the country like Bukoba town in Kagera region. On the international border, the Mwanza port will be a gate for transporting goods to Port Bell and Bukasa Inland Port in Kampala, Uganda’s capital city.

The SGR is expected to accommodate passenger trains travelling at 160 kilometres per hour and cargo trains travelling at 120 kilometres per hour hauling heavy cargo weight of 10,000 tonnes per trip, which would have been ferried by 500 trucks if it were to be transported by road.

According to the Ministry of Works and Transport, transportation of cargo and passengers using an electric powered SGR will lower cost for the East and Central African economies as haulage overhead is three times lower compared to using fuel powered transportation.

It will also greatly cut down carbon emissions while travelling time from Dar es Salaam port will be trimmed from around seven days to less than one day.

The train will take about ninety minutes to commute between Dar es salaam and Morogoro, while it will take about three hours from Dar es Salaam to Dodoma, which covers about 584 kilometres.

According to the Ministry, Tanzania’s modern SGR meets international standards and therefore simplifies availability of spare parts, wagons and engines and experts will be easily available to assure all is going well.

Apart from having a specialised power grid to ensure electricity supply to run one of the fastest locomotives in Eastern and Central Africa, Tanzania’s SGR trains are designed to have in-built power back up to have the train moving in case of power outages due to mechanical fault or any other causes.

“Every SGR station is equipped with an electricity substation and generators in case of disconnection of any kind from the main grid. Also, if all electricity supply fails for any causes, the SGR engine would switch to the last option, which is using its diesel engine,” says Ms Jamilla Mbarouk, the TRC’s spokesperson,

The possibility of causing accidents is almost nonexistent because this SGR has a system which can inform on what challenges are on the rail some kilometres ahead. It can also be controlled from the headquarters in Dar es Salaam, therefore the engineman is being monitored and may receive assistance driving the train in case there is such a need.

The completed section of phase one is between Dar es Salaam – Morogoro regions covering 300 kilometres. It will be followed by phase two from Morogoro–Makutupora covering 426 kilometers and it will be commissioned in the first quarter of the year 2023. Also, there is phase three of the project stretching from Makutupora to Tabora, a 294 kilometer distance which is in progress.

Phase four of the SGR linking Tabora to Isaka, a 130 kilometer section, has the contractor on site.  Phase five starts at Isaka to the final destination of Mwanza covering 341 kilometers and construction is going on.

Future SGR construction plans are the phases linking Isaka–Rusumo at the border of Tanzania and Rwanda, another one is that of Tabora to Kigoma and to Bujumbura in neighbouring country of Burundi.

On the other hand, TRC does not downplay the role of the older Meter Gauge Railway (MGR) linking the port of Dar es Salaam and other regions. Dating back to colonial era, Tanzania’s MGR has been one of the major carriageway from Dar es Salaam port to Kigoma, Mwanza and to the northern regions of Tanga, Kilimanjaro and finally to Arusha.

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