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Tanzanians lament as touted electric SGR suffers trial blackouts

By Winnie Mabel February 27th, 2024 2 min read

Kenya’s Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) has always been a point for mockery by its neighbours, Tanzanians.

Kenya originally had the intention of building a modern SGR from Mombasa through Kampala, Uganda to Kigali, Rwanda but this hit a dead end in Naivasha, Nakuru County in Kenya after Chinese contractors refused to finance the last leg of this railway after failing to reach an agreement with Uganda.

Tanzania then sparked rivalry with Kenya when it announced its own Standard Gauge Railway that would see it run from Tabora to Kigoma and onwards to the borders of Burundi and the Democratic Republic Of Congo as well as Rwanda and Uganda.

The difference?

Tanzania would build an electric line and use electric trains compared to Kenya’s ‘fossil’ diesel engine-powered trains.

Tanzania’s railway cost Sh 271 billion for a 2,102-kilometer line length using diesel engines compared to Kenya’s which cost Sh 628 billion for a 3.800-kilometer line length using electric trains. For this cost, Tanzanians have always mocked Kenyans for constructing the most expensive infrastructure in its history and then purchasing diesel engines compared to their project. One politician went as far as mocking Kenyans for taking huge loans to build such an expensive railway line, saying it would take more than 25 years for Kenya to repay the loan.

However, Tanzania’s electric SGR trial was off to a rocky start on February 26, 2024, when the electric train went off twice during the trial run.

According to local reports by The Citizen, 30 minutes into the journey, the train’s power went out.

“After travelling for 30 mins, the train’s power went out, affecting some lights, sockets, AC, but it continued the journey. Power was quickly restored, but it went out again from 11:18am to 11:59am Tanzania Railway Corporation says the loss of power was due to a ‘neutral zone’, an electric blackout zone,” reported The Citizen.

The electric train was expected to travel at a speed of 160 km/hour over 196 kilometers between Dar-es-Salaam and Morogoro but instead took five hours at a speed of 40 km/hour.

“Inside Tanzania SGR, trains are so beautiful and comfortable. The problem is the current slow speed. Govt plans to start Dar – Dodoma trips by July this year in under 3 hours, Morogoro in 90 minutes. Unfortunately, Dar-Moro testing today took 5 hours…

This train has arrived in Morogoro. The 90mins mins journey took 5 hours. Plus SGR prices are twice compared to buses. You have to be insane to take SGR at the moment. DISASTER! 😭 😭,” lamented one Tanzanian.

Many other Tanzanians lamented at this highly publicized embarrassment with the electric train.

“What were they testing? Speed? Reliability of the railway line? If we don’t know what they were testing, we can’t judge. But if it was me, I wouldn’t have tested it at full speed,” added Lingz.

Testing of the train and official commencing of cargo and passenger trains has been delayed for two years. When the project is finalized the Railway Corporation hopes to connect the port of Dar-es-Salaam to the landlocked countries of Burundi, DR Congo, Uganda, and Malawi.

Kenya has, meanwhile, announced plans to extend her SGR line to Uganda, Rwanda, DR Congo, and also build a separate one linking Lamu Port with South Sudan and Ethiopia.

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