Africa's rail renaissance: large sums of money are being spent all over Africa to reconstruct old railway systems and install new ones. The advantages of rail over road have been obvious for quite a while but investment has been lacking. Now the money is there. Is this a new age for African transport? Asks Neil Ford.During the colonial period Colonial Period may generally refer to any period in a country's history when it was subject to administration by a colonial power.
Railways have continued to perform a vital role during the independence years but investment has been limited and a number of lines have fallen into decay. However, there are signs that the continent may be entering a rail renaissance, as African governments seek to extend the benefits of rail beyond merely exporting raw materials as quickly as possible.
It is often argued that it is impossible for railways to be profitable. Even in those countries where private companies run rail services, large scale state subsidies are often required to make services economically viable. Yet just as in the industrialised Adj. 1. industrialised - made industrial; converted to industrialism; "industrialized areas"
industrial - having highly developed industries; "the industrial revolution"; "an industrial nation" West, African countries are increasingly asking themselves whether the economic, social and nation building benefits of reliable cargo and passenger services outweigh the financial cost of maintaining rail infrastructure.
There is an added benefit to rail travel in Africa that is not always apparent in other parts of the world. A combination of a lack of investment and the harsh climate makes African roads difficult to maintain. Even those highways that are metalled can become unusable because of the powerful combination of torrential rain and searing sear 1
v. seared, sear·ing, sears
1. To char, scorch, or burn the surface of with or as if with a hot instrument. See Synonyms at burn1.
2. temperatures. Landlocked countries A landlocked country is commonly defined as one enclosed or nearly enclosed by land. As of 2007, there are 43 landlocked countries in the world. such as Rwanda and Burundi have periodically been virtually cut off from the outside world when heavy rain has affected supply roads through neighbouring states such as Tanzania.
Although many stretches of African rail The African Rail (Rallus caerulescens) is a small wetland bird of the rail family.
Its breeding habitat is marshes and reedbeds across eastern and southern Africa from Ethiopia to South Africa. track are over a century old and are used to transport similarly ageing engines and carriages, sustained investment in African railways can provide a more reliable link between regions than the more vulnerable road network. At the same time, transferring the transportation of heavy or bulk goods from the roads to rail can help preserve the many unpaved roads which criss-cross the African continent.
Moreover, one of the biggest costs of both importing and exporting goods in Africa is made up by transportation charges. It can take six weeks to transport goods from Saharan states like Niger and Mali to markets in Western Europe Western Europe
The countries of western Europe, especially those that are allied with the United States and Canada in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (established 1949 and usually known as NATO). . This can rule out the production of more time sensitive goods and incurs charges from haulage companies covering several weeks. Faster and more reliable transport links would make a major contribution to developing export industries.
Finally, rail links between different parts of the continent would certainly be in the spirit of the New Partnership for Africa's Development New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) is an economic development program of the African Union. The NEPAD was adopted at the 37th session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government in July 2001 in Lusaka, Zambia. (Nepad) initiative. While the colonial authorities did seek to develop extended rail links from Cape to Cairo and across the French Saharan possessions, there are few cross-border services today.
There is little chance of developing a comprehensive network of new rail lines across the continent, but the selective construction of new lines or the modernisation of existing infrastructure--where it is deemed economically prudent--could eventually be expanded into something more wide ranging.
PUTTING THEORY INTO PRACTICE
The spate of projects either at the planning stage or actually under construction indicates that a change in attitude towards African rail is underway. The continent's first high speed rail link, between Pretoria and Johannesburg, has finally been given the go-ahead while Angola is planning to reconstruct re·con·struct
tr.v. re·con·struct·ed, re·con·struct·ing, re·con·structs
1. To construct again; rebuild.
2. the Benguela line to Zambia and Mozambique.
The Benguela line was originally built to enable the export of agricultural goods from eastern Angola and mining exports from Zambia and southern Democratic Republic of Congo. The railway was poorly maintained during the final years of Portuguese rule and was targeted many times during the long Angolan war of independence The Angolan War of Independence (1961–1974) began as an uprising against forced cotton harvesting, became a multi-faction struggle for control of Angola with 11 separatist movements and subsequent civil war.
The reconstruction of Angola will take many years and water, power and school projects may attract more immediate funding, but rebuilding the line would help link the fertile central regions of the country to the coast in both an economic and psychological sense.
Angola has been riven rive
v. rived, riv·en also rived, riv·ing, rives
1. To rend or tear apart.
2. To break into pieces, as by a blow; cleave or split asunder.
3. apart by decades of conflict and easing the movement of people and goods from the interior to the centre of power at the coast could help to rebuild some bridges. It would also help Angola in its quest to become more fully integrated in the Southern African Development Corporation (SADC SADC Southern African Development Community
SADC State Agriculture Development Committee
SADC St Albans District Council (administrative authority for St Albans, Hertfordshire, UK)
SADC Sector Air Defense Commander ).
Large areas must be cleared of mines, both in the former sugar beet sugar beet, variety of beet used commercially as a source of sugar.
Variety of beet (Beta vulgaris) that accounts for about two-fifths of global sugar production, making it second only to sugarcane as a source of the world's sugar. plantations in the interior and along the actual route of the track, but the government has already signalled its intention to begin rehabilitating the track on a stage by stage process.
A short section of track is already operational along the coast, but external support for the railway will surely be dependent on the steps the government takes to improve the level of transparency in its financial dealings. Although Angolan oil revenues are set to increase rapidly over the coming decade, the project will not be financed by the government alone.
Other former colonial railway systems are being improved or redeveloped. The scenic Asmara-Massawa railway was reopened in Eritrea at the end of 2002, improving links within the country and becoming one of Eritrea's premier tourist attractions Noun 1. tourist attraction - a characteristic that attracts tourists
attractive feature, magnet, attractor, attracter, attraction - a characteristic that provides pleasure and attracts; "flowers are an attractor for bees" . The line was attacked during fighting in the 1970s and reconstruction work was held up by the war of independence and then the border war with Ethiopia, but rehabilitation rehabilitation: see physical therapy. work has finally been completed.
The same story is being repeated several times in Mozambique, where railways from Malawi, Zimbabwe and the Mozambican interior to the coast of the former Portuguese territory were blown up during the long years of civil war.
Reconstruction work is well underway on several lines, including the Nacala line, from the northern Mozambican port of Nacala to landlocked landlocked adj. referring to a parcel of real property which has no access or egress (entry or exit) to a public street and cannot be reached except by crossing another's property. Malawi. The US Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC OPIC Overseas Private Investment Corporation
OPIC Office de la Propriété Intellectuelle du Canada (French: Canadian Intellectual Property Office)
OPIC Organization of Professional Immigration Consultants
OPIC Ohio Public Interest Campaign ) has agreed to provide around half of the $60m needed to improve the 914 km line before it begins operations under the Northern Development Corridor (CDN (Content Delivery Network) A system of distributed content on a large intranet or the public Internet in which copies of content are replicated and cached throughout the network. ) consortium, comprising US companies American Railroad Corporation and Edlow Resources, plus Mozambican state owned rail company CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute) The measurement of air flow. Cooling fans are rated in CFM. , Manica of South Africa South Africa, Afrikaans Suid-Afrika, officially Republic of South Africa, republic (2005 est. pop. 44,344,000), 471,442 sq mi (1,221,037 sq km), S Africa. and Portuguese firm Tertir.
The World Bank has also offered to invest $85m of the $240m needed to bring the Sena line back into use.
The railway will be able to transport coal from Moatize to the port of Beira The Port of Beira is situated on the Pungoe River estuary in the city of Beira (Mozambique). It is the second largest port in Mozambique, having supplanted the harbour of Sofala in the 1890s. , while a new spur line to Malawi has been mooted.
CFM is funding the modernisation of the first 90km section of track, while a tender has been issued for the contract to rebuild the remaining 510km stretch. CFM is currently being restructured with World Bank support, in an effort to help the company focus on its core areas of interest.
GAUTRAIN HIGH SPEED RAILWAY
At the opposite end of the scale, neighbouring South Africa is able to finance the Gautrain scheme without having to attract donor support. Trains will reach speeds of up to 200 km/h on the 57 km section of track, allowing trains to stop at a number of stations, including the business suburb of Sandton and Johannesburg International Airport, while still completing the journey in less than 40 minutes. Although Gauteng Province will need to invest R7bn in the project, a pre-feasibility study concluded that no operational subsidies would be required.
In many ways, the South African government was left with little option but to build a new link between the political and economic capitals of the country. The existing road between the two cities already carries around 350,000 passengers a day and traffic jams are becoming increasingly common. The situation is likely to become a great deal worse over the next 10 years, as more South Africans This is a list of notable South Africans with Wikipedia articles. Academics, Medical and Scientists
The route is ideally suited to some form of public transport, given that a large percentage of road users are moving between the same fixed points. However, the new service is something of a breakthrough in a country where the more wealthy members of society--black and white--are not used to using public transport. The legacy of apartheid and the prevalence of crime ensure that most people prefer to stay firmly locked inside their own vehicles. The cost of the new project means that fares will be relatively high and so security will need to be excellent if commuters are to be attracted on to the trains. New coaches will be used to ferry people from the various Gautrain stations to their final destinations.
At the end of April this year, the Gauteng department of agriculture, conservation, environment and land affairs (GDACEL) adapted the project's environmental impact assessment (EIA (Electronic Industries Alliance, Arlington, VA, www.eia.org) A membership organization founded in 1924 as the Radio Manufacturing Association. It sets standards for consumer products and electronic components. ) to take into account some objections from local residents, so construction work is now is now likely to begin in 2005, with the first construction phase completed by the end of 2008. Two pre-qualified consortia, Bombela and Gauliwe, have submitted bids in response to the first phase project tender.
At the other end of the continent, a project to build the first ever rail link between Europe and Africa has been agreed. In December 2003, the Spanish and Moroccan governments signed a deal to construct two parallel rail tunnels under the Straits Straits: see Dardanelles; Bosporus. of Gibraltar, from Punta Malabata near Tangiers to Punta Palomas on the Spanish side. In the first instance, $30m will be invested over three year preparing the way for construction, although completion of the link will cost many billions of dollars.