North - South Sudan Railway Link Inaugurated

Sudan President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir and First Vice President Salva Kiir Mayardit on Thursday inaugurated a rehabilitated railway line in Western Bahr el Ghazal State with pledges to extend the transportation network across Sudan.

North - South Sudan Railway Link Inaugurated
Transport Infrastructure: A train arrives in Wau, Western Bahr el Ghazal State.[©Gurtong]

By Manyang Mayom

WAU, 11 March 2010 (Gurtong) – The 446 km (277 mile) railway was originally built in the 1960s and will re-connect the town of Babanusa in central Sudan to Wau town, deep in the war-ravaged south.

Its completion follows the landmark arrival of a train from Babanusa into Aweil on September 25, 2009.

Officials said the railway will provide a crucial economic link and lower commercial transportation costs.

President Bashir told a rally at Wau stadium that more railway connections in Sudan will be extended from Wau to Rumbek and from Juba to Uganda.

He said the Sudanese Government had agreed with Uganda and Kenyan on business deals to empower the country’s economy.

Northern Bahr el Ghazal State caretaker Governor Efisio Kon Uguak said the arrival of this railway will reduce high commodity prices in Wau while at the same time boosting local trade.

"It will be the lifeline of the area, the cheapest way to bring in goods including from Port Sudan," said Mohammed Bashir, the engineer in charge of the project.

Two million people died, mostly in the south, during the civil war that ended with a peace deal in 2005. It gave the south a semi-autonomous government and a 50 percent share of oil revenues from southern wells.

Relations between the north and south remained troubled, with fighting erupting at least three times. It is widely expected that the south will choose to separate from northern Sudan in a January vote on independence.

There are a few, poor roads between the south and the north but they become almost impassable during the long rainy season, said Nhial Bol, Director General of Railways in the semi-autonomous south's transport ministry.

He said restarting the rail link was delayed by arguments over whether the north or south should fund the project.

The railway was paid for by the World Bank-administered Multi-Donor Trust Fund (MDTF). Two-thirds of the $46 million cost was provided by the Sudanese government and the rest footed by international donors, Bashir said.

Bol said commercial trains will begin running soon once the ticketing system is organised.

He said a tender had recently been released looking for a company to assess the feasibility of extending the railway from Wau through three other southern towns including Juba and then to northern Uganda.

(Additional reporting from Reuters by Skye Wheeler, Editing by Opheera McDoom)

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