- Published on Monday, 27 August 2012 01:00
- Written by Marc Nkwame in Arusha
- Hits: 1122
A faded, white concrete signpost with the word ‘Arusha’ painted on it with black lettering still stands at a point where trains would be entering the town’s station.
The Arusha Railways Station used to be the final stop for locomotives that brought both passenger and cargo wagons destined for the Northern Zone, during the heydays of the now semi-defunct Tanzania Railways Corporation (TRC).
Once here some other passengers after alighting from the trains would then connect further inland using the brown-banded buses also owned by the Tanzania Railways.The Arusha Railways Station premises are currently neglected, overgrown with weeds, cobwebs and covered by thick layers of dust, wasp nests and debris from crumbling walls.
The railway lines are almost disappearing into the soil with their bolts loosening but the metal planks still bear the embossed lettering; EAR which happens to be the abbreviations for ‘East African Railways’ a company whose engines, rail lines and premises were inherited by the TRC.
Apart from handling trains, the hybrid Arusha Railways Station also used to serve as Bus Station, because in early days the TRC also operated passenger buses that used to connect regions that were not directly linked by rail lines.
The TRC buses bearing those distinctive number plates starting with RAB letters, would in most cases ferry passengers between Arusha, Dodoma and Iringa and towns, via Babati and Kondoa.Strategically placed, the Arusha Railways Station is located in the Unga-Limited Industrial area where a number of rail track ways can be seen crisscrossing around warehouses, depots and former vibrant factories which have since also closed down.
The main railway track way feeding the town station here stretches to as far as Dar-Es-salaam and Tanga Cities via Moshi, Mwanga, Same and Hedaru (Kilimanjaro) as well as Mombo and Korogwe (Tanga) and Chalinze (Coast).
Trains no longer cover the Northern Route whose main mode of transport remains to be road-based one which has given rise to all types of private buses and cargo trucks competing for businesses along the route.And sure enough, during a recent visit to the area, one of the station’s warehouse is now used as loading and offloading area for long-distance cargo trucks especially those carrying cement and other building materials.
Some of the houses meant for Railways staff were locked and gathering dust just like the main station’s building though a make-shift shack which used to house temporary workers is now home to a number of policemen who must have missed vacancy at the police residences elsewhere.
Adjacent to the Station’s entrance gate stand the now popular second-hand (Mitumba) garments’ market whose establishment back in 2006, was highly contested by a number of people in Arusha City.Even now town some town planners are still on view that having noisy Mitumba clothes hawkers at the railways station was a derailed idea. But even more absurd, is the existence of unofficial vehicle repairing workshops known as ‘Krokoni Garage!’
The unofficial garages, second-hand clothes dealers and other dubius businesses including food vending, pirated CDs and scrap metal business (with many of the merchandise originating from the station’s pieces of hardware) continue to cannibalize the Arusha Station.
“At night this station becomes a den of thieves, robbers, bhang smokers and all types of outlaws that ever crawled from the woodworks,” reveals a woman who sell food to metal apprentices working at a number of ‘Krokoni’ Garages as well as to ‘Mitumba’ dealers.
With both the ‘Station Master’ and ‘Assistant Station Master,’ offices being padlocked and rusting hinges revealing no sign of life, it was difficult to get anyone at the location to explain the pathetic situation of the decaying public property being highly vandalized at the moment.
The absence of guards, watchman or at least any person who can keep an eye at the Railway Station further reinforces that fact that, the premises are ‘free for all,’ gift to anybody who would be interested to take anything from the setup.
Things are further being made worse for the station (and much easier for thugs), due to absence of any fencing to protect the property from trespassers.The Railway Station at Moshi, though also abandoned due to lack of trains and related activities, is not suffering the same fate of irresponsible vandalism as is the case at Arusha.
Some residents of Arusha, including Mr Japhet Sandawi a clothes dealer and Mama Salome Daniel a food hawker are suggesting that, something should be done to save the little of what is left of the former vibrant Arusha Railways Station.