London: The relaunch of Angola's rail corridors, which is underway between the coast and the interior of the continent, may have an "enormous impact" on the country’s economy over the next few years, said the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). 'It opens up the remote interior to trade, allowing Angola to re-establish itself as a transport corridor for exporting raw materials from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia,' said the EIU in its latest report on Angola.
Last month, the first of the three rail corridors was opened up to passenger traffic, three and a half years after initial projections - the Luanda Railroad (CFL), which links the Angolan capital to Malange.
Together with the Benguela Railroad (CFB) and the Moçamedes Railroad (CFM), CFL made up the rail network of the Portuguese colonial administration, which established Angola as a platform for raw materials from the interior of the continent, stimulating rapid economic growth in the 1960s and 1970s.
With credit lines from China, in 2004 a US$4 billion project was launched to rebuild and modernise the three corridors. Work on CFL was the first to start, in February 2005, at the hands of rail group China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC) and involving the China International Fund, but the project faced financing problems when the international eocnomic crisis set in, the EIU said.
The new CFL is 424 kilometres long, with new rolling stock, has 20 new stations and three fuel supply stations operated by Sonangol. For now the schedule includes daily services in both directions along the line, but it as not yet been decided on what date the corridor will be fully operational.
Meanwhile reconstruction work restarted on the CFM, which had been brought to a halt in the middle of last year due to financing problems, and the line between Matala and Menongue is expected to be concluded and operational at the end of this year.
As for CFB its date of conclusion has yet to be announced, but according to the EIU it is unlikely that trains will circulate on the line before the middle of next year.
Work to rebuild the Benguela railroad is in the hands of the China Railway 20 Bureau Group Corporation, and the inaugural passenger train is expected to travel between Lobito and Luau, in Moxico province.
According to the Angolan authorities, over 400 kilometres of railway have been rebuilt and construction and repair work is being concluded at 75 stations.
The Angolan government recently invested over US$89 million to acquire new rail equipment for CFB from Chinese company Machinery Equipment Import and Export Corporation - eight engines, 66 carriages and 94 closed and open trucks.
Part of the investment will be used to train Angolan technicians in China, specifically 28 locomotive mechanics, 12 carriage mechanics and the same number of truck specialists.
Once they have been concluded, the centres will serve Angola’s main sea ports - Luanda, Lobito and Namibe.