November 10, 2015 / 1:32 PM / in 3 years

Tanzania-Zambia railway gets $22.4 mln Chinese lifeline

A locomotive with freight wagons is pictured at a railway station in Kiev, Ukraine, September 29, 2015. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

LUSAKA (Reuters) - China has lent Zambia and Tanzania $22.4 million to buy locomotives and rolling stock for a railway that carries copper to Tanzania’s Indian Ocean port of Dar es Salaam, a spokesman for the railway said on Tuesday.

The loss-making line is an important route for copper exports from Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa’s top copper producer, but the firm transporting the metal struggles to pay its workers, prompting strikes.

The Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA) has been hit by a slump in cargo and passenger traffic and undercapitalisation over the past decade.

Its freight volumes plunged to less than 90,000 metric tonnes in the year to June from about 630,000 metric tonnes a decade earlier.

Tanzania in October said it would inject 6 billion shillings ($3 million) into TAZARA.

“The new locomotives are expected to uplift the current daily availability of mainline locomotives by 33 percent to an average of 16 locomotives,” TAZARA spokesman Conrad Simuchile said in a statement.

The funds are an interest-free loan from the Chinese government to Tanzania and Zambia to support TAZARA.

The four new locomotives are expected to improve the operations of TAZARA, which has struggled with old, infrequently maintained equipment, Simuchile said.

($1 = 2,140.0000 Tanzanian shillings)

Reporting by Chris Mfula; editing by James Macharia and Jason Neely

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