, LUSAKA, Jan 13- A key railway line which links landlocked Zambia to the ports in Tanzania has been shut after workers downed tools to demand five months unpaid salaries, the operating company said Tuesday.
The cash strapped Tanzania Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA), which is owned by the governments of the two countries and has been struggling for more than a decade, said all train operations had been suspended indefinitely from Monday.
Due to “longstanding operational challenges,” losses “have now reached a crisis level,” TAZARA said in a statement.
As a result it “has been unable to meet most operational costs, the bulk of which include expenses for running spares for locomotives and rolling stock, fuel and salaries for employees.”
Tazara remains an important route to the sea, handling most of Zambia’s copper and cobalt exports.
Zambia is the seventh biggest producer worldwide and the second biggest when it comes to refined copper.
The Chinese built Tazara, which runs for 1,860 kilometre (1,150 mile) from the heart of Zambia’s copper belt in Kapiri Mposhi to Tanzania’s major seaport of Dar es Salaam.