Bloomberg News

Senegal Targets Mali Minerals With $1.6 Billion Railway Plan

November 29, 2011

Nov. 29 (Bloomberg) -- A railway linking the capitals of Senegal and Mali needs about 1.2 billion euros ($1.6 billion) to strengthen the track and lure more of Mali’s mineral exports to Senegal, which hopes to become a regional transportation hub.

The 90-year-old route that crosses 1,233 kilometers (766 miles) of arid, Sahelian terrain would cost 1 million euros per kilometer to boost load capability, said Abdoulaye Lo, general director of l’Agence Nationale des Chemins de Fer du Senegal.

“A high-capacity railway line transporting iron ore and phosphates is extremely important for Senegal,” he said by phone from Dakar yesterday. The track is currently able to handle axle weights of 15 metric tons, Lo said. The goal is for 27 tons, he said.

The bid to improve the route comes as Mali’s mines increase output of gold, iron ore and other minerals. The railway is also a key passage for exports of cotton from and comes as Senegal is keen to attract more goods from neighboring nations in a bid to promote the port at Dakar, operated by DP World Ltd. of Dubai. Trains carried 440,000 tons of goods on the line in 2010, according to Transrail SA, the operator.

The governments of Senegal and Mali, which each hold 11 percent stakes in the line, are looking for funding from the European Union, the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the French Development Agency, said Eric Peiffer, director general of Transrail. Lo did not identify any potential funders.

Derailments

Built after World War I, several ownership changes in the railroad led to low investment until it was privatized in 2003. In this year to October, there were 136 derailments and 291 sections of broken track on the section between Dakar and Thies, according to Transrail.

The line needs “modest improvements” at a cost of 140 billion CFA francs ($283 million) over 10 years just to halt derailments and other accidents that cause delays, Peiffer said in an interview Nov. 25, the same day that work started on a 41.5-kilometer section of track between Dakar and Thies, Senegal’s second-biggest city. That route, which carries passengers as well as goods, will cost 8.1 billion CFA francs and be completed by 2014, he said.

--Editors: Emily Bowers, Karl Maier.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rose Skelton in Dakar via Accra at ebowers1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net.


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