Work on the Tanzam Railway (Tanzara) has reached the township of Mpika, central province of Zabia, in the past few weeks.
Work on the Tanzam Railway (Tanzara) has reached the township of Mpika, central province of Zabia, in the past few weeks. Mpika lies well over half way along the new rail route from Dar-es-Salaam, the capital of Tanzania and its major southern port, to Kapiri Mposhi, north of Zabia's capital Lusaka and a junction with rail routes to the west. The most difficult construction work along the I,200 miles (I,860 kms) route is over: the hundred odd miles between Mlimba and Makambako in Tanzania contain over 30 per cent of the bridges, tunnels and viaducts projected for the whole route.
The construction of the rail line at an estimated cost of GBP 167 million sterling has been made possible by a loan from The People's Republic of China. The loan, backed up by the work of Chinese technicians and engineers, is on interest-free terms, repayable over a thirty-year period beginning in 1983 in either convertible currency and/or export goods. Zambia's chief export commodity is copper, and the People's Republic of China produces only one-third of her own cooper requirements.
The Rhodesian declaration of unilateral independence in 1973 closed Zambia's most important export route, and the country's economy had to face the burden of financing a difficult road route through Tanzania to the coast. A United Nations estimate puts the cost to Zambia of the closure of the Rhodesian border and the cutting of the trade route to Beira, in Mozambique, at well over GBP 100 million sterling.
The rail route, formally inaugurated by President Kaunda of Zambia in mid-1970, is expected to be complete by late 1976. The rolling stock and locomotives, as well as the trained staff required to run the railway, are all the result of Chinese technology and training. It is hoped that the construction of the rail route will not only expedite overseas trade; the workshops, sawmills and quarries, by-products of the railway construction, are seen as key sectors for industrial development in central and northern Zambia, whilst the under-employed agricultural areas of northern Zambia will benefit greatly from the better communication facilities provided by the new railroad.
When the link with Dar-es-Salaam is complete, Zambia will be freed from it uneconomic dependence upon road transport for export and import. The new railway is already carrying three thousand tonnes (over two thousand, nine hundred tons) of goods into Zambia per day. Perhaps fittingly, it is proposed to rename the completed railway the Uhuru, or Freedom, railway.
SYNOPSIS: Mpika station, central Zambia, the current railhead in the construction of the new Tranzam Railway running from Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, to central Zambia.
Building of the railway, financed by a loan from the People's Republic of China, began in mid-1970, after the inauguration of the railway by President Kaunda of Zambia.
As well as money, China also provided hundreds of technicians and engineers, now working alongside local and Pekingtrained Zambians to complete the rail-road by late 1976.
All Zambia's efforts are concentrated on opening the new trade route as soon as possible to help the country's economy.
The large numbers of Chinese workers now in Zambia as part of the railway construction force have caused unease in neighboring countries, but when the project, China's largest ever foreign undertaking, is finished, all will return home. Meanwhile, they live in model camps and hostels set up along-side the railway tracks.
Mpika, Zambian headquarters of the railway, is typical of the small townships which are expected to boom as a result of its construction.
These houses, now occupied by Chinese workers, will be handed over to Zambians, once the railway is completed. Zambians are also being urged to emulate the self-sufficiency of the Chinese, who produce their own food, on site.
The workshop complex at Mpika represents the industrial development that the railway construction has necessitated. It is hoped that this will serve as an impetus to further development in central and northern Zambia.
All facilities are being employed to the full: this administrative block houses not only offices, but serves as a dormitory block for railway workers. The neighboring training school provides the technical knowhow for Zambian workers to run the railway after Chinese technicians have left.
The railway, which will be known as the Uhuru or Freedom Railway, already carries three thousand tonnes of cargo into Zambia daily. It will provide Zambia with a vital export link, essential since the closure of her border with Rhodesia in 1965.
Stations like Chambeshi along the route northwards into Tanzania will open up the hinterland of Zambia for greater agricultural development. The northern part of the country has great found potential which at present is tapped far below its limit. On completion, the one thousand two hundred mile railway will have taken only six years to build, at a cost of one hundred and sixty seven million pounds.