After formally bagging the new oil pipeline from the Ugandan oilfields through Tanzania to the port of Tanga, more good news emerged for Tanzania. The proposed railway extension from the inland dry port of Isaka to Kigali and Bujumbura will be built after all, providing a safe, faster, and much more economical link to the Indian Ocean port of Dar es Salaam.
While Uganda’s decision to route the pipeline, entirely financed by Total of France to the tune of well over US$4 billion, pulled the rug from underneath Kenya’s plans to have a joined pipeline crossing their own oil fields, Rwanda’s decision to push ahead with the central corridor railway line to Dar es Salaam may have done a similar thing to Uganda as the future of the Standard Gauge Railway from Kampala to Kigali is suddenly once more in doubt. Two major railway lines may provide redundancy but at a cost which may be prohibitive, and going the Isaka – Dar es Salaam way may yet prove the ultimate challenge for the Rwandan SGR link via Uganda and Nairobi to the port of Mombasa.
Tanzanian officials dealing with the railway project appear to have confirmed the determination of the partner countries to go ahead and even finance the remaining consultancy reports jointly, a nd to then launch procurement and actual construction by mid-2017.
The existing narrow gauge railway line from Dar es Salaam to Isaka will, according to the same sources, not be materially refurbished, but a new SGR line will be built in parallel to it, permitting, when complete, higher payloads and faster speeds, key to moving cargo traffic from the road to the rail.
Details seen suggest the rail line inside Rwanda to be about 120 kilometers from the border to Kigali while the link from the border to Isaka was given at just over 400 kilometers. The overall length of the new rail line will be just under 1,700 kilometers in length.
The overall price tag at present estimates stands at over US$5 billion, and the line should be complete by 2021.
It could not be established if the rail operator will also offer passenger services or restrict train movements to just cargo.