KHARTOUM, (Sudanow) - The Sudan Railways (SR) network is Africa’s longest network of its kind, stretching to a massive 5,800 kilometers of which 4,578 km constituting main lines. It is a network of a single line with a width of 3’6”, equivalent to 1067 mm. It extends from Sudan’s northernmost Wadi Halfa southwards into South Sudan’s Wau (now part of the State of South Sudan) and from Port Sudan on the Red Sea to the western most city of Nyala in Darfur region.
In the past the Sudan Railways played a major role in transporting the country’s exports and imports, invigorating the Sudanese economy. Nonetheless, it has, during the recent period, experienced a recession in performance, partially due to the economic sanctions imposed by the United States on Sudan.
President Bashir has recently ordered the formation of a high level committee for rehabilitation and modernization of the Sudan Railways with the view to accomplish communication and development projects. Addressing a ceremony marking inauguration of a concrete plank factory in Khartoum North last February 29, Bashir instructed all concerned ministries to help remove all obstacles towards the Sudan Railways modernization. He pledged support to a plan for modernization and improvement of this facility.
Sudanow met with Sudan Railways Manager Makkawi Mohamed Awad who cast light on this important facility:-
Sudanow: - Would your excellence brief us on the Sudan Railways?
Awad: - Sudan Railways network is the country’s oldest means of transport that took part in all stages of the country’s economic development as it monopolized the transportation business for half a century. It contributed by 90% to the transportation of the Sudan foreign trade, haling agricultural exports and equipment and machinery imports .
Q: - What are the Sudan Railways achievements?
A: - The Sudan Railways accomplished a great deal including, for instance, transportation of the equipment and machinery of the sugar processing mills in central Sudan, cement factories in northern and central Sudan and food industries in the centre. It has succeeded in hauling the oil export pipes from far southern region to far eastern region and refinery equipment in central and western Sudan which the trucks have failed to transport. It has transported the heavy equipment of Merowe Dam in northern Sudan from the port to the site of the Dam, including the huge electricity generators, cables and transformers.
Q: - What was the volume of exports and imports the Sudan Railways has moved?
A: - The following figures tell you about the exports and imports Sudan Railways has transported:-
In the years 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 and 2001
Exports: 94,669 73,477 174, 92 224,211 212,274 444/224
Imports: 648,654,991 684,911 827,591 716,655 870,655 respectively
Q: - The Sudan Railways has experienced some problems that led to its degeneration. What are those problems?
A: - They included poor technical specifications of the network in addition to operational problems of inefficiency of the locomotives that caused increasing breakdowns and incidents. Another reason that led to the Sudan Railways decline was its inability to compete the land highways built parallel to the railway lines in addition to the slow speed for connecting the center (Khartoum) with the states and the neighbouring countries.
Q:-What plans do you have for upgrading the Sudan Railways performance?
A:- Until the early 1970s, the Sudan Railways used to monopolize the exports, imports traffic but its performance began to deteriorate, falling to the lowest level in the late 1980s when officials neglected the network and focused on the land roads. It was, moreover, affected by the economic problems and exports decline in addition to the lack of perishable spare-parts.
Being aware of the importance of the Sudan Railways as an effective infrastructure for enhancing the country’s economy with its numerous advantages, the current Government, after take over in June 1989, purchased six diesel locomotives to improve the hauling capacity. This coincided with implementation of a plan for operation of the Sudan Railways on a commercial basis (1989-90-91-92-93) as part of a new economic policy. The steps taken by the Government helped the Sudan Railways restore its status as a national carrier, exploiting to the maximum the available possibilities, despite the scarce possibilities at the beginning of this decade, compared to the 1980s decade, though the hauled tonnage has in fact dramatically increased:a number of old railway lines stretching from Khartoum to the north, east and west through Atbara, Port Sudan, Babanousa and Abu Jabra in Kordufan and Nyala in Darfur.
Q: - Have any new lines been built?
A:- The past few years saw the stretching of four new lines: 1) parallel Khartoum-Port Sudan 2) Parallel Khartoum wad Medani 3) Saloom-Sawakin and 4) Al-Jaily-Soba stretch.
Q: - Are there any railway lines linking the Sudan with Arab and African countries?
A: - There is Wadi Halfa- Aswan stretch that links Sudan to Egypt and connects with other lines stretching up to Libya, Tunisia and other Maghreb states. As for Africa, there are:
A) Kassala- Eritrea (80 km)
B) Nyala – Geneina- Chad (336 km). However, the landmark accomplishment was the recent construction of the concrete plank factory, a Chinese investment venture, costing 3.5 million US dollars. It produces 2,400 planks a day, enough for stretching 450 kilometers a year. Each a concrete plank costs 72 US dollars.
Q: - What future projects do you have for the Sudan Railways development?
A:- There are numerous projects, including the return of the passenger train in 2013 with a speed ranging between 80 to 120 km/hour, after concluding an agreement for importing the latest passenger trains. A number of other important development projects are under consideration for upgrading the Sudan Railways and raising its competitive capacity. Implementation of some of those projects has actually begun, including:-
1- Construction of railway lines with suitable specifications
2- Construction of new parallel lines
3- Expansion of Sudan Railways network
4- Attracting new customers
5- Introduction of service units for passengers of short distances to and from densely populated urban centers such as: Khartoum- Wad Medani, Khartoum- Atbara, Atbara- Port Sudan and Atbara-Abu Hamad.
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