by Toby Collins
July 31, 2011 (LONDON) - The Secretary of Sudanese-Chadian Twinning Secretariat travelled to China on Saturday to sign a contract with a bank to borrow the funds to build a railway between Sudan and land-locked Chad.
- Train to Wau, Sudan (MIME)
Secretary Hassan Bargo said the new line will travel from Nyala into Chad.
Nyala is the capital of South Darfur State and the current terminus for the west Sudan leg of the rail network.
The dilapidated network connects Khartoum to Wadi Halfa on the northern border with Egypt, Wau in South Sudan and Port Sudan on the east coast.
With 5,000km of track, Sudan has one of Africa’s largest rail networks. However, 73 per cent of it is more than 80 years old and poorly maintained. As well as the freight trains, there are infrequent and irregular passenger services.
During the Islamic Summit Conference organised by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Senegal on 14 March 2008 a committee was established to implement the Port Sudan-Dakar Railway Line. This would connect Sudan, Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Mali, Burkino Faso, Senegal and possibly Djibouti.
On 14 March Chad signed a US$7 billion contract with the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation which is scheduled to begin work on a railway line connecting it to Cameroon and Sudan in 2012.
In November the President of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir reiterated his support for renovating and developing the Sudanese rail network.
It was reported in 2007 that Sudan signed a US$1.5 billion contract with China Railway Engineering Group Co Ltd and China Railway Erju Co Ltd to build a new line between Khartoum and Port Sudan.
The track running to Wau was re-opened in 2010 after a World Bank funded renovation project.
The decline of the rail network began after the economic boom of the 1960s – 70s. It was compounded by the Sudanese government’s dismissal of rail staff in the 1990s; their trade unions were strong and politically active.
Bashir recently announced at a set of austerity measures. With the secession of South Sudan, Khartoum has lost the majority of its oil fields and therefore a significant proportion its revenue. It is estimated that North Sudan is $38 billion in debt.
In this year’s failed state index Chad and Sudan held the positions of second and third respectively. Improving the regional trade infrastructure along the route, well-trodden by nomads and Muslims on their way to Mecca, could bring much needed revenue... if the rhetoric is to be believed.