Amid a fuel crisis that has seriously affected public transport for over a week, Tanzanian authorities have launched commuter train services to ease movement for low-income workers.
According to Transport Minister Harrison Mwakyembe, commuter trains operated by Tanzania Railways Limited (TRL) and the Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA) will ferry approximately 30,000 passengers a day.
“The government’s policy objective is to see trains operating well in the city of Dar es Salaam through a sustained improvement of infrastructure of the transport system,” Mwakyembe said.
TAZARA trains cover a stretch of 34 km from the authority’s central station to the city environs while TRL serves a section of the densely populated areas within a radius of approximately 12 km from the railway station.
The commuter train services started Monday and commuters have welcomed the government move that has saved them from the discomfort of travelling on congested private buses.
“Though the trains will be operating for six days a week, this is a great relief to ordinary residents of the city who don’t even dream of owning a personal car,” James Rashid told PANA as he alighted from a TRL coach at the central station Tuesday.
“The fare is okay and the time it has taken me to get here is unbelievably short,” Rashid added.
Dar es Salaam has a population of more than four million. Besides the poor road network, public transport is by far inadequate to meet their needs.
Meanwhile, motorists still have to grapple with a shortage of petrol and diesel supplies as filling stations in the city had not restocked by Tuesday.
Some commuter bus operators said they suspected that oil marketing companies were on a boycott because the scarcity started soon after the Energy and Water Utilities Regulatory Authority (EWURA) announced lower fuel oil prices early this month, compared to the previous prices.
EWURA fixes pump prices monthly in accordance with fluctuation in world market fuel prices.
EWURA’s communication and public relations manager Titus Kaguo admitted that there was a shortage of fuel on the local market, but said the scarcity was exacerbated by local marketing companies that exploit the situation by reducing supplies to retailers.
The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Energy and Minerals, Eliakim Maswi told journalists that senior government officials were meeting to find a solution to the fuel crisis.