DAR ES SALAAM-- A senior Tanzanian government official said the governments of Tanzania and Zambia are planning to review laws overseeing the running of the Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA) to allow private investors to run the railway line.

Tanzania's Deputy Minister for Works, Transport and Communication Atashasta Nditiye said the planned revision of the laws will allow private investors to buy shares in the railway authority and help boost efficiency.

TAZARA was constructed as a turnkey project between 1970 and 1975 through an interest-free loan from China, with commercial operations starting in July 1976. The railway covers 1,860 km from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to New Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia.

However, TAZARA has suffered a cash crunch in recent years, bringing it almost to a halt.

"We are eager to improve operations so as to boost trade between Tanzania and Zambia, the Great Lakes region and Southern Africa," said Nditiye.

"When you have a reliable railway, trade between countries becomes easier and more efficient, it reduces delays and congestion on the roads," Nditiye told the ongoing 42nd Dar es Salaam International Trade Fair.

He said Tanzania is seeking to increase trade volumes with neighboring countries by developing key infrastructure to facilitate movement of people and cargo.

In September 2016, TAZARA said it needed about 250 million U.S. dollars of investments in the short term and about 1.2 billion dollars in the long term in order to get back to peak performance.

Bruno Ching'andu, former TAZARA managing director, called on private investors to partner with TAZARA to achieve the desired investments.

He said the two shareholding governments of Tanzania and Zambia are in the process of revising the legislation that established TAZARA in order to make the company more commercially viable and attractive to private players.

Over the years, TAZARA's passenger service operational levels had dropped drastically to the very minimum, where four trains per week with barely 455,000 passengers were transported in the 2014/2015 financial year, compared to 10 years ago when the authority ran six trains per week and carried more than 900,000 passengers annually.