The recent announcement of Tanzania’s Reli Asserts Holding Company’s (Rahco’s) intention to revive the Dar es Salaam commuter railway service illustrates two important trends which appear to be on the increase in Africa, says research company Frost & Sullivan.
The first key trend, says Frost & Sullivan environment and building technologies research analyst James Milne, is Rahco’s desire to bring on board an independent operator to implement the expansion, modernisation and operation of the network.
The contracting of an independent third party represents a shift away from State-controlled management of infrastruc- ture facilities, a trend gaining prominence on the continent, he notes.
“The success of private-equity firm Citadel Capital’s rehabilitation and revitalisation of the rail network in Tanzania’s neighbour, Kenya, serves to illustrate the potential for African governments, which are shifting away from reli- ance on State-owned utilities.
Milne says the second key trend is the emergence of rapid transit systems in a number of African countries as a possible solution to huge congestion problems in major cities.
Frost & Sullivan’s research into rail infrastructure development indicates several significant ongoing projects which involve the construction, or revitalisation, of urban light rail, or metropolitan commuter rail systems, within major cities on the continent.
Projects already under development include the $2.20-billion Abuja light rail project and the $1.2-billion Lagos rail mass transit system, in Nigeria, as well as the $400-million Addis Ababa light rail project, in Ethiopia.
A number of similar potential systems have also been tabled in several other African countries.
“It is important to note that such rail systems, working in conjunction with bus rapid transit systems, are increasingly being considered as a viable option for alleviating massive congestion problems within major cities by offering commuters an alternative option to already overburdened road networks,” says Milne.
Rail infrastructure development in Africa indicates that key profiled projects across the continent, and across all project stages, amount to a total of $48.12-billion, where projects in the planning phase account for 68.1% of investment.
Investment in the sector is expected to continue to increase as intraregional rail corridors are developed to ease the burden on road networks and increase access to Africa’s growing population, says Milne.
Engineering News reported in the June 22 edition that Rahco had set in motion a process to engage an operator to revive Dar es Salaam’s commuter rail service. This would entail upgrading some 32 km of existing rail lines and improving telecommunications and signalling systems, developing associated infrastructure and supplying locomotives and passenger coaches.