Interview: World Bank official commends China's experience in developing high-speed railway

09:23, March 12, 2010      

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"China has very good experience in developing high-speed railway, which can be learned by the East African countries," a senior World Bank official said on Thursday.

John Murray McIntire, World Bank Country Director for Tanzania, Uganda, and Burundi, made the remarks in an exclusive interview with Xinhua at the sidelines of a regional conference on East African railways system with the theme of "Revitalizing the Railways for Enhanced Regional Integration and Economic Growth".

McIntire noted that the East African railway systems are facing big problems and the East African countries including Tanzania is tending to adopt the "Chinese model" for the development of railway system in the region.

On the issue of financing for the railway system revitalizing, the world Bank official said that the captital needed for the project will be a big amount, which cannot be afforded by one country or one donor.

He added that that's the reason why the World Bank (WB) and the African Development Bank (AfDB ) need to assess the East African Railway Master Plan to mobilize resources, stressing the importance of the railway revitalizing project.

For his part, the East African Community (EAC) Secretary General Juma Mwapachu termed China as "a big partner" as Tanzania gets a lot of support from China, including the assistance in the sector of broadband internet.

On the financing of the East African railway revitalizing project, the former Tanzanian Ambassador to France said that he expects the cooperation from both public and privater sectors, apart from mobilizing resources of the WB and the AfDB.

He also expected a "soft loan" from China to help revitalize the East African railway system, underscoring the importance of " connectivity" in the regional railway system.

The EAC Secretary General also highlighted the importance of management of railways system, citing the project of Tanzania- Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA) railway, which was built in 1970s with the assistance from China.

Organized by the Arusha-based East African Community (EAC) Secretariat in collaboration with the WB and the AfDB as part of the process of actualizing the East African Railway Master Plan, the regional conference is also meant to get synergy from other institutions on the way forward for the dilapidated railway system in the region.

At the two-day conference, Partner States are expected to highlight current plans for existing and development of new railways and also comment on the master plan and appraise the conference on the country plans, their status, and how they fit in with the EAC Railway Master Plan including arrangements for financing.

The conference was also attended by Tanzanian Minister for Infrastructure Development Shukuru Kawambwa, officials from the Partner States Ministries responsible for Infrastructure Development; officials from the Railway Holding Companies and Concessionaires and participants drawn from the public and private sectors and the donor community.

The preparation of the East African Railway Master Plan is a directive by the Summit of the EAC Heads of State for the development of a regional strategy to revamp the railways after decades of neglect and poor management which had severely eroded the dominant role of railways as the main conveyor of freight in the region.

The Master Plan contains recommendations on what the region needs to do in order to revamp the railways system in the short, medium and long terms, and includes issues on traffic projections, technical considerations, legal and institutional reforms and environmental mitigation measures.

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