Dar es Salaam|
|Operator(s)||Tanzania–Zambia Railway Authority|
|Line length||1,860 km (1,160 mi)|
|Track gauge||1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in)|
The TAZARA Railway, also called the Uhuru Railway or the Tanzam Railway, is a railroad in East Africa linking the port of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania with the town of Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia's Central Province. The single-track railway is 1,860 km (1,160 mi) long and is operated by the Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA).
The governments of Tanzania, Zambia and China built the railway to eliminate landlocked Zambia's economic dependence on Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa, both of which were ruled by white-minority governments. The railway provided the only route for bulk trade from Zambia's Copperbelt to reach the sea without having to transit white-ruled territories. The spirit of Pan-African socialism among the leaders of Tanzania and Zambia and the symbolism of China's support for newly independent African countries gave rise to TAZARA's designation as the "Great Uhuru Railway", Uhuru being the Swahili word for Freedom.
The project was built from 1970 to 1975 as a turnkey project financed and supported by China. At the time of its completion, two years ahead of schedule, the TAZARA was the single longest railway in sub-Saharan Africa. TAZARA was the largest single foreign-aid project undertaken by China at the time, at an initial construction cost of US $500 million (the equivalent of US $3.05 billion today)
TAZARA has faced operational difficulties from the start and is in a state of near-collapse as of 2015. Annual traffic was only 88,000 metric tons in fiscal year 2015, less than 2% of the railway's design capacity of 5 million tonnes per year. In order to keep the railway running, China decided to waive 50% of its loan-free construction debt in 2011.
Running some 1,860 km (1,160 mi) from Tanzania's largest city, Dar es Salaam, on the coast of the Indian Ocean to Kapiri Mposhi, near the Copperbelt of central Zambia, the TAZARA is sometimes regarded as the greatest engineering effort of its kind since the Second World War. The railway crosses Tanzania in a southwest direction, leaving the coastal strip and then entering largely uninhabited areas of the vast Selous Game Reserve. The line crosses the TAN-ZAM highway at Makambako and runs parallel to the highway toward Mbeya and the Zambian border, before entering Zambia, and linking with Zambia Railways at Kapiri Mposhi.
From sea level, the railway climbs to 550 metres (1,800 feet) at Mlimba, and then reaches its highest point of 1,789.43 metres (5,870.8 feet) at Uyole in Mbeya before descending to 1,660 metres (5,450 feet) at Mwenzo, the highest point in Zambia, and settling to 1,274.63 metres (4,181.9 feet) at Kapiri Mposhi.
Dar es Salaam metropolitan area
In greater Dar es Salaam, the TAZARA is also used for passenger commuter rail. The Dar es Salaam commuter rail was launched in 2012 to relieve traffic congestion. The TAZARA offers two routes on its 20.5 km rail network. The first from its station in Dar es Salaam to Mwakanga which lies on the outskirts of the city. It stops at Kwa Fundi Umeme, Kwa Limboa, Lumo Kigilagila, Sigara, Kitunda road, Kipunguni B, Majohe and Magnus. The second service runs from its Dar es Salaam station to Kurasini via Kwa Fundi Umeme, Yombo, Chimwaga, Maputo, Mtoni Relini and Kwa Aziz Ali Relini.
Upon leaving the coast, TAZARA runs west, through the Pwani Region, then dips south of Mikumi National Park and enters the wilderness in the northern part of the Selous Game Reserve in the Morogoro Region. The Selous is one of the largest faunal reserves in the world and passengers can often see wildlife such as giraffe, elephant, zebra, antelope and warthog, which have become accustomed to the rumbling of the trains. The railway crosses the Great Ruaha River for the first time in the Selous.
Further south, the railway cuts through the fertile Kilombero Valley, and skirts the great Kibasira Swamp. The next section, between Mlimba (the Kingdom of Elephants) and Makambako (the Place of Bulls) was to be 158 km (98 mi) long, and presented the builders of the railway with the greatest challenge. To lay track across rugged mountains, precipitous valleys and deep swamps, it was necessary to construct 46 bridges,18 tunnels, and 36 culverts. Because of the heavy rainfall in this area, intricate drainage works had to be integrated with every feature. But perhaps, the most spectacular feature is the bridge across Mpanga River valley, which stands above the river on three 50 m (164 ft) tall pillars.
At Kidatu, a metre gauge branch railway connects to the Central Line at Kilosa. The TAZARA then climbs into Southern Highlands of the Iringa Region and levels out onto a rolling plateau. Here, in the coffee and tea country of the Njombe Region, the weather becomes noticeably cooler, the air sharper. On the approach to Makambako, the Udzungwa Mountains National Park rise 2,137 m (7,011 ft) to the north, while the Kipengere Range roll ahead to the south. Makambako is one of the meeting points of the railway and the Tanzania-Zambia Highway.
From Makambako the railway and the highway run a parallel course towards Mbeya running past the Kipengere Range that towers to the south. Here in the Mbeya Region, the TAZARA crosses several upstream tributaries of the Great Ruaha, which are lined with belts of forest and grasslands.
After the Kipengere Mountains, the Uporoto Range takes over with the Usangu Flats stretching to the north. From Mbeya town, both the railway and the highway heads northwest to Tunduma where they cross the border into Zambia.
The TAZARA enters northeastern Zambia at Mwenzo, in the Northern Province and heads southwest to Kasama. It then turns due south and crosses the Chambeshi River en route to Mpika. After entering the Central Province, the railway again turns to the southwest, running along the northern foothills of the Muchinga Mountains, past Serenje and Mkushi to Kapiri Mposhi, located due north of the Lusaka.
As of February 2016, two passenger trains per week traverse the entire TAZARA in each direction. Departures are on Tuesdays and Fridays in each direction. The brand new Express train travels Fridays from Dar and Tuesdays from New Kapiri Mposhi. The Ordinary train makes all possible stops, and the Express service makes fewer stops The entire journey, as scheduled, takes 36 hours, though delays can extend the trip to as long as 50 hours or more. Trains on the TAZARA are slower than overland bus service but cheaper and safer. In recent years, the TAZARA trains have attracted foreign tourists wishing to see the landscape and wildlife along route.
Rovos Rail of South Africa operates the Pride of Africa, a luxury train, that runs periodic tours from Cape Town to Dar es Salaam via the TAZARA. Commuter train service on the TAZARA between Dar es Salaam and its suburbs commenced in 2012.
Rail gauge and standards
The TAZARA has a track gauge of 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm), also known as the Cape Gauge, which is widely used throughout southern Africa. TAZARA connects to the Cape-gauge Zambia Railways at Kapiri Mposhi. The remainder of Tanzania’s railways have 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 3⁄8 in) metre gauge tracks. A transshipment station with a break of gauge station was built in Kidatu in 1998.
Except for the rail gauge, TAZARA generally reflects Chinese railway standards of the 1970s. The original technical characteristics of the line are:
- Couplers: Janney (AAR)
- Brakes: Air/vacuum
- Axle loading: 20 metric tons
- Sleepers: Concrete on main line, Wood at turnouts and on bridges.
- Rail: High-manganese steel, 45 kg/m (90 lb/yard), mostly jointed.
- Signals: Semaphore
- Design speed: 70 miles per hour (110 km/h)
- Design capacity: 5 million metric tons per year.
- Loading gauge: Limited by 22 tunnels in the Udzungwa Mountains
|U30C||10||Krupp||Variant of GE U26C, not to be confused with the identically-named GE U30C.|
|CK6||CSR Chengdu||Shunting locomotive|
Origins of the project
In the late 19th century, a railway from British Rhodesia to Tanganyika (then German East Africa) to carry copper ore was originally envisioned by Cecil Rhodes. After World War I, Tanganyika was handed over to the United Kingdom for administration as a League of Nations Mandate, and British colonial authorities again explored the idea.
Following World War II, interest in railway construction revived. A map from April 1949 in the Railway Gazette showed a proposed line from Dar es Salaam to Kapiri Mposhi, not far from the route that would eventually be taken by the Chinese railway. A report in 1952 by Sir Alexander Gibb & Partners concluded that the Northern Rhodesia-Tanganyika railway would not be economically justified, due to the low level of agricultural development and the fact that existing railways through Mozambique and Angola were adequate for carrying copper exports. A World Bank report in 1964 projected that only 87,000 tons of cargo would be carried between Zambia and Tanzania by the year 2000, not enough to support a railway, and recommended that a road be built instead.:43
In 1961, Tanganyika became independent under the leadership of Julius Nyerere, and in 1964 the country joined with Zanzibar to form the United Republic of Tanzania. Also in 1964, Northern Rhodesia was granted independence as Zambia, under the leadership of Kenneth Kaunda. Both Nyerere and Kaunda were charismatic socialist African leaders who supported the self-determination of their African neighbors. A railway connecting their two countries would help to develop the agricultural regions of southwestern Tanzania and northeastern Zambia.
Attempts to secure funding
Nyerere and Kaunda initially pursued different avenues for the construction of a rail route. When Nyerere visited Beijing in February 1965, he was initially hesitant to raise the issue of the railway out of concern that China was also a poor country. President Liu Shaoqi offered to assist Tanzania and Zambia in building a railway between the two countries. Chairman Mao Zedong told Nyerere, “You have difficulties as do we, but our difficulties are different. To help you build the railway, we are willing to forsake building railways for ourselves.” Chinese leaders assured Nyerere that the full ownership of the railway would be handed to Tanzania and Zambia upon completion along with the technology and equipment for operations. Nyerere did not immediately accept the Chinese offer but sought to use it to induce Western backing for the railway, but none was forthcoming. He did, however, accept a team of Chinese surveyors, who produced a short report in October 1966.
Kaunda was initially wary of Communist involvement and wanted to maintain friendly ties with Britain. He turned down an offer from the Chinese Embassy in Lusaka to build the railway. In addition, Zambia and Rhodesia were joint owners of the Zambian Railway and the joint ownership agreement would penalize Zambia for diverting traffic to other railways. The resulting Canadian-British aerial survey produced a favourable report in July 1966, but Western funding was not forthcoming. Britain, Japan, West Germany, World Bank, the United States and United Nations all declined to fund the project. The Soviet Union was similarly uninterested.
At the time, China was actively seeking diplomatic support in the Third World against both the United States and Soviet Union. Some believe that Mao originally supported the construction of the railway to secure votes against the Soviet Union at the Asia-Africa summit of Algiers of 1965. Though the Algiers conference was cancelled, Chinese support for the TAZARA continued.
Trade Minister Abdulrahman Mohamed Babu and other ministers from Zanzibar were instrumental in lobbying Chinese leaders for support and then persuading Nyerere to accept the assistance. At the 1965 Commonwealth prime minister's conference, British prime minister Harold Wilson was so struck by Tanzania's pro-China attitude that he felt many of Nyerere's ministers were "directly in the Chinese pay." Canadian prime minister Lester Pearson also questioned whether Nyerere should get so close to the Chinese. Nyerere later complained that Western nations opposed the Chinese plans for the railway, but did not offer him any alternative.
"... all the money in this world is either Red or Blue. I do not have my own Green money, so where can I get some from? I am not taking a cold war position. All I want is money to build it."— Julius Nyerere, PRO, DO183/730, From Dar es Salaam to CRO, No. 1089, 3 July 1965.
In November 1965, Southern Rhodesia's white-led colonial government issued its Unilateral Declaration of Independence from Britain, and threatened to sever Zambia's trade routes to the sea. Kaunda dropped his objections to Chinese involvement and accepted the Chinese offer while visiting China in January 1967. Nyerere and Kaunda continued to supported black liberation movements in Rhodesia, South Africa, and Mozambique, and the Tanzania-Zambia Railway became a critical tool for preserving Zambia's political and economic independence. On September 6, 1967, an agreement was signed in Beijing by the three nations. China committed itself to building a railway between Tanzania and Zambia, supplying an interest-free loan of RMB988 million (approx. US$500 million) to be repaid over 30 years.
The West reacted to Chinese backing for the project with both alarm and derision. Critics questioned construction quality and competence of the Chinese, calling the TAZARA, the "bamboo railway." The Wall Street Journal stated in 1967, "the prospects of hundreds and perhaps thousands of Red Guards descending upon an already troubled Africa is a chilling one for the West." The United States funded the Tan-Zam Highway, which was built from 1968 to 1973, to compete with the railway.
Construction was begun in 1970 and operation commenced in October 1975, two year ahead of schedule. Before the railway construction began, 12 Chinese surveyors travelled for nine months on foot from Dar es Salaam to Mbeya in the Southern Highlands to choose and align the railway's path.
In all, from surveying, to construction, to training and management, China sent about 50,000 personnel from 1965 to 1976, including 30,000 to 40,000 workers. An estimated 60,000 Africans participated in the railway's construction. At the height of construction in 1972, there were 13,500 Chinese and 38,000 African workers on the project.
Chinese assistance was provided in large part by the Railway Engineering Corps, then part of the People’s Liberation Army (predecessor of China Railway Construction Corporation) and the foreign aid department of the Ministry of Railways (predecessor of China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation). Chinese personnel sent to Africa were selected for political dependability, moral probity, technical expertise and personal fitness, and underwent as long as two months of training. Chinese assistance followed the country's socialist ethos of the time, following a labor-intensive instead of a capital-intensive model widely used in the West. Chinese engineers lived and worked according to the same standards as their African counterparts.
Construction camps were set up for each 40-mile (64 km) section of track, being relocated as the work progressed. Papaya and banana trees were grown to provide shade and food, and workers tended vegetable gardens in the camps in off-hours.
The work involved moving 330,000 tons of steel rail and 89 million cubic meters of earth and rock, and the construction of 93 stations, 320 bridges, 22 tunnels and 2,225 culverts. Virtually all building materials, equipment and significant amounts of food and medical supplies were shipped from China, including ambulance vans sent to transport the sick and injured. Braving rain, sun and wind, the workers laid the track through some of Africa's wildest and most rugged landscapes. One Chinese worker recalled that his team was trapped in the wilderness for a week after floods and landslides washed away the only connecting road. "We lived in fear of lions and hyenas."
The bridge across the Mpanga River is 160 feet (49 m) in height, and the Irangi Number Tunnel is 1.5 mi (2.4 km) long. The section from Mlimba to Makambako crosses mountains and steep valleys and contains almost 30 percent of the bridges, tunnels, viaducts, and earthworks of the entire route are located a 10-mile (16 km) stretch of this section.
The project pressed forward despite the enormous political upheaval and economic dislocation in China caused by the Cultural Revolution, during which most domestic railway building projects were halted or delayed as vast numbers of government officials were purged. President Liu Shaoqi, who made the initial offer to President Nyerere in 1965, was removed from power in 1966, publicly vilified and died in 1969. In Tanzania, Abdulrahman Mohamed Babu, who had persuaded the Chinese to back the TAZARA, was sentenced to death in 1972 for allegedly plotting to overthrow the Zanzibar government. He was pardoned by Nyerere in 1978.
The TAZARA has been a major economic conduit in the region, but it faced operating difficulties from the start and never reached its design capacity. Within the first years of operation, serious problems arose with maintenance and employees. In their haste to complete the railway ahead of schedule, the Chinese did not train sufficient African technicians to take over management of the railway. Landslides and washouts frequently disrupted service, especially during the rainy season of 1979.
Serious problems arose with equipment and maintenance. The initial diesel hydraulic locomotives sent by the Chinese were insufficiently powerful to haul heavy loads up the steep escarpment between Mlimba and Makambako. When the Chinese rolling stock broke down, there was limited local capacity to for repair. By 1978, 19 to 27 of the locomotives were out of operation for repair and so were half of the rail cars.
Railway operations were also hindered by difficulties with employees. In 1972, two hundred Tanzanian and Zambian students were enrolled in the Northern Jiaotong University in Beijing to learn railway management, but a dozen of them were expelled in the first year for misbehavior.:99 Employee theft was serious enough that 20 Zambian crew members were fired in 1978 for stealing and drivers were brought back from China for a return run, and hundreds of other Chinese advisers had their stay extended. These problems resulted in much lengthier than planned turnaround times for freight and in 1978 Zambia had to break ranks and reopen links with Rhodesia for its copper exports.
Growth in traffic
In 1983, the Tanzania and Zambia invited the Chinese back to help manage the railway. About 250 Chinese managers were assigned to railway bureaus along route. They brought operational profitability to the railway and paid for their expenses through revenues. Cargo reached 985,000 tons, but the Chinese had to issue additional zero-interest loans to pay for spare parts and rehabilitation.
In 1985, seven European countries pledged additional aid to the TAZARA and provided $150 million from 1987 to 1993. China also gave more aid during this period. However, a report for USAID in 1987 warned that equipment repairs would only "reduce some short-range problems" unless the "underlying causes" were fixed, as the locomotive workshops lacked basic supplies and spare parts, and less than 20% of the employees at the locomotive workshops were actually doing work.
Passenger traffic on the railway rose from below 500,000 in the early 1980s to 988,000 in 1990, and 1.3 million in 1986. Local goods accounted for nearly half of the cargo shipped on the line between 1985 and 1988.
TAZARA played an important role in the black nationalist struggles of the late 1970s and 1980s. During the Rhodesian Bush War, the Chambeshi River Bridge was blown up by the Selous Scouts, putting TAZARA out of service for three months. The Rhodesian government targeted TAZARA to cut ZIPRA's supply lines to Tanzania and force Zambia to send all of its exports through Rhodesia. During the struggle against apartheid, TAZARA served as an alternate trade route for Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Malawi that did not pass through South Africa.
In the 1990s, the economic performance of the railway began to decline with changes to the broader economic and political environment. With the independence of Namibia in 1990 and the end of apartheid in South Africa in 1994, southern Africa was no longer dominated by white minority governments, and Zambian copper had more economic outlets to the south and east. Road transport provided competition in the form of the Trans–Caprivi Highway and the Walvis Bay Corridor to Namibia.
The privatization of Zambia's copper mines forced railways in Zambia to compete for previously-guaranteed government cargo. Traffic on Zambian Railways fell from 6 million tonnes in 1975 to 690,000 tonnes in 2009. TAZARA suffered an even greater drop in traffic.
In 2008, the railway's condition was described as being "on the verge of collapse due to financial crisis," and dangerous track conditions were discovered by Chinese technicians inspecting the line. The company's cash flow difficulties have led to delays in paying salaries, resulting in frequent strikes by the workforce. By 2012, TAZARA had only 10 operational main line locomotives. In September 2013, the TAZARA was reporting monthly losses of about $1 million on $1.53 million in monthly revenue against $2.5 million in average monthly expenditures.
along the TAZARA
Attempts at revitalization
The railway is sometimes described as an economic "lifeline" for Zambia and the government in Lusaka has ostensibly remained committed to its revitalization. In April 2013, Zambia’s second largest copper miner, Konkola Copper Mines, agreed to re-commence shipping copper on the TAZARA after a five-year hiatus. By November 2013, the line was reported shipping 15,000 tons of copper weekly, but still prone to breakdowns and delays. In addition to carrying copper, manganese, cobalt and other minerals for export, the TAZARA also transports Asian imports and fertilizer to Zambia, Congo DR, Malawi, Burundi, and Rwanda.
The Chinese government has also been unwilling to see the complete shutdown of its signature foreign aid project. In 2011, China cancelled half of the debts it was owed by the TAZARA. Since the original loan was interest-free, inflation had already reduced the real value of the debt by more than 80%, as $500 million in 1970 was the equivalent of US $2.90 billion in 2011.
Additional Chinese aid has kept TAZARA in a state of minimal operation. At the beginning of 2010, the Chinese government gave TAZARA a US$39 million interest-free loan to revive its operations. However, TAZARA management estimated that it would require US$770 million to become commercially viable. In October 2012, the Chinese government gave $42 million for four new main locomotives, two shunting locomotives, other equipment, spare parts and staff training.
In March 2014, Tanzanian, Zambian and Chinese officials held talks to recapitalize the TAZARA and to split the management into two companies, one in each of Tanzania and Zambia. The Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority took delivery in 2015 of four diesel-electric locomotives and 18 coaches supplied from China and there will be more to follow. TAZARA’s Dar es Salaam workshop has also begun a programme to refurbish 24 out-of-use coaches.
The TAZARA has had a strong impact on the rural regions along route. In the 1970s, the Tanzanian government resettled villagers into ujamaa villages that were near the railway. Initially the villages were tasked with providing security for the railway, against foreign sabotage. As the Tanzanian economy liberalized in the 1990s, the villagers began to use the railway to trade local produce.
The railway also enabled settlers to move to the fertile Kilombero valley, between Mbeya and Kidatu, to grow cash crops such as rice and vegetables that they can readily ship to other communities. As the TAZARA traverses diverse ecosystems, it facilitates trade in local produce across previously isolated communities, including maize, beans and vegetables from the highlands of Makambako, rice from Ifakara, oranges from Mlimba, cooking bananas from Mngeta and Idete. The TAZARA ran the kipsi shuttle trains in the "passenger belt" of southern Tanzania to serve the region. Many settlements have gone into large towns and districts.
The TAZARA Railway Authority has also become a large state employer. In 40 years of operation, as many as one million people have been employed by the railway. Chinese involvement has also been credited for increasing the opportunities of women to enter male-dominated jobs such as train driver.
The TAZARA remains an enduring symbol of the solidarity of the developing world and Chinese support for African independence and development. When Beijing hosted the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, the starting point of the torch relay in Tanzania was the grand terminal of the TAZARA.
The difficulties with TAZARA made the Chinese government wary about funding other rail projects in Africa. China would not build another new main line railway in Africa for the next 41 years. While TAZARA was 100% funded by an interest-free loan, the new Chinese railway loans charged interest and required the recipient government to supply matching funds.
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- Tanzania Railways Corporation
- Transport in Tanzania
- Transport in Zambia
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With a designed capacity of five (5) million tonnes of freight per annum ...
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The TAZARA railway line is designed with a 1067mm-gauge, which allows through traffic operations with other Southern African railways, such as Spoornet of South Africa, Botswana Railways, National Railways of Zimbabwe, Zambia Railways Limited Namibia Railways, Mozambique Railways and Societe Nationale Des Chemins De Fer Du Congo Sarl (SNCC) of the DRC.
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TANZANIA-Zambia Railway Authority (Tazara) has awarded CSR Qishuyan Locomotive Company, China, a contract worth $US 12.5m to supply four additional type SDD20 diesel locomotives for use on its 1860km line between Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, and New Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia.
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TAZARA now has a fleet of about 16 mainline locomotives at its disposal, six of the SDD20 were acquired recently while the remaining 10 were the old Diesel Electric U30C Locomotives aged over 25 years whose reliability has reduced drastically due to overuse and lack of maintenance.
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The CK6 diesel locomotive is a diesel-hydraulic locomotive manufactured for TAZARA by CSR Chengdu Co, Ltd of China. ... It is suitable for the shunting and transfer services only.
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Increases in motive power through addition of new diesel electrics and additional re-engining of selected (operational) Chinese DFH2 locomotives will reduce some short-range problems TAZARA will experience with the increase in freight and passenger traffic demands. However, without direct attention to some of the underlying causes of low availability of main-line locomotives, the unacceptable current performance in workshops/depots will continue and availability will remain low.
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When she joined TAZARA, she had no clue that one day she would be the first woman in Zambia to venture into an all-man dominated field. In those days it was unheard of for a woman to take up such a profession which was a preserve for men. “It is the Chinese (we were working with) who suggested that I start driving the train. For me, it never crossed my mind that I could drive a train. The Chinese motivated me and once I took on this challenge I never looked back,” she said.
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Transport secretary Michael Kamau said last month’s loan for the standard gauge railway (SGR), energy and wildlife protection was negotiated at a floating interest rate of 360 basis points above the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor). ... Other than the Chinese loan, the remaining part of Sh340 billion railway modernisation project will be financed by the recently introduced railway development levy.
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