Tazara reported that it had been making a monthly loss of $US 1m since 2013. Low revenues were attributed to a fall in freight volume, which fell from 1.2m tonnes in 1990 to 480,000 tonnes in 2013.

The railway previously stated that it would need $US 770m to make it commercially viable, and has asked the governments of Tanzania and Zambia for further guidance on the matter.

Mr Conrad Simuchule, Tazara's spokesperson, said: "Longstanding operational challenges have seen Tazara operating at a loss for more than 10 years now – losses that have reached a crisis level as the authority has been unable to meet operational costs."