Quotes: MENA   Enter Symbol: NewsLetter: Search: advanced

All aboard! Sudan's sleek new Nile Train a rarity  Join our daily free Newsletter

MENAFN - AFP - 21/04/2014
No. of Ratings : 0
Add to Mixx!

(MENAFN - AFP) In a dilapidated, poverty-stricken country where some railway rolling stock is more than 40 years old, Sudan's sleek, sharp-nosed Nile Train is an unusual sight.

From a distance it looks like a large white snake gliding past fields of green near the Nile River north of Khartoum.

On January 20 the train began daily passenger service -- Sudan's first in years -- as part of efforts to revive the railway system despite an economic crisis that has left the country ravaged by inflation and starving for hard currency.

"This new train is really, really modern," says Ahmed Hussein, the project manager for Sudan Railways Corporation.

The four coaches roll out of the once-abandoned station in an industrial area of North Khartoum at 9:00 am every day, heading north with two stops before reaching the railway junction town of Atbara.

The journey of close to 300 kilometres (186 miles) takes six hours and 40 minutes. That is roughly twice as long as a bus but a lot quicker than the old trains serving Sudan's other passenger rail destinations -- all two of them.

The train to Nyala, in war-torn Darfur, goes every two weeks, while another makes a weekly trip north of Atbara to Wadi Halfa near the Egyptian border.

Even though track conditions have restricted speeds of the Nile Train, it has proven so popular that in March the railway doubled its frequency to twice daily in the corridor which is already heavily-travelled by buses, transport trucks and private cars.

Hussein said every Nile Train service is almost full with an average passenger load of around 284.

Sudan bought two of the trains from China at a total cost of around 13 million, which is being paid over about four years, he said.

- Safer than the bus -

"I think most people travelling between Khartoum and Atbara will stop using buses and change to this new train," said Hannah Ali Mohammed, 35, marvelling at how, unlike older trains, the air-conditioned coaches kept her clothes free of desert dust during the trip to North Khartoum.

A student, Ahmed Al-Haj Omer, 23, said it was his first time riding the rails.

"I enjoyed it," he said. "It's safer. There are a lot of bus accidents on the road between Khartoum and Atbara."

A bus ticket also costs about 50 percent more than the 51-pound (6) train trip.

Hassan Abdulmajid, 52, said he has already used the Nile Train four times and hopes other parts of the country will get a similar service.

That is the plan, says Hussein, but the first obstacle to overcome is the track.

"Unfortunately, we have only one track," meaning freight and passenger services share the same narrow-gauge rails, although the company is doing its best to upgrade what they have, he said.

Sudanese and Chinese firms have been replacing wooden railwa ties with concrete on the Khartoum-Atbara line, while track work has also started between Atbara and the trade centre of Port Sudan, he said.

Rehabilitation of the line to Wad Medani, in Sudan's once-thriving agricultural heartland, will follow soon, Hussein said.

After that, service by modern coaches like the Nile Train can be expanded.

This was part of former general manager Makawi Mohammed Awad's vision for restoring the railway, employees say.

In December, Awad was named to the cabinet where he is minister of oil.

The Khartoum-Atbara route formed part of the main line to Port Sudan and dates from 1898, the year before Britain and Egypt began to jointly administer Sudan, the railway's website says.

"It played a very important role in unifying the country," said veteran newspaper columnist Mahjoub Mohamed Salih, who hasn't used the railway in about 30 years.

An efficient rail system would be an asset for the country which has been desperate for hard currency since the loss of about 75 percent of its oil production when South Sudan separated in 2011.

"It will remain that railways are the cheapest system for your exports," Salih said.

- A railway morgue -

Lack of money played a role in the railway's decline but so did political factors, according to the columnist, who said the government of President Omar al-Bashir, fearing labour unrest, dismissed thousands of skilled railway employees in the 1990s.

Khartoum has been under a United States trade embargo since 1997, and Mohamed Oro Saliem Mohamed, the railway's locomotive and rolling stock manager, says all of Sudan's American-made engines are idle because of a parts shortage.

Others are still able to pull 20-25 freight trains around the country daily, he says, adding with a slight chuckle that some are very old.

"Some of them, 1970. Some of them, 1960... but rehabilitated."

Many of the roughly 49 functional locomotives have been purchased in recent years from China, and five more are on the way, Mohamed says.

Decaying grey and yellow coaches from decades past lie abandoned behind his central Khartoum railway headquarters.

It is a railway morgue, but alongside the corpses are signs of life.

In recent months a new dirt road has been built into the site where pedestrians used to wander freely. A fence has gone up, and Sudanese workers hammer away at severed pieces of track. A backhoe digs, and a Chinese technician has set up his surveying tool on a tripod.

Train horns are heard more frequently in the city.

For newspaper columnist Salih the Nile Train and accompanying improvements are a small step "but not much".

"I think the collapse of Sudan Railways is total, and partial rehabilitation will not do," he said.

"But they have to start somewhere."



  MENA News Headlines
 Oct 25 2016 - Egypt- Motorcycle division seeks audience with presidency after import ban on two-stroke enginesDaily News Egypt
(MENAFN - Daily News Egypt) The Motorcycle Division at the Cairo Chamber of Commerce plans to submit a memorandum to the presidency and the cabinet, objecting to the Ministry of Industry and Trade's ...

 Oct 25 2016 - Egypt- Car market has no spare partsDaily News Egypt
(MENAFN - Daily News Egypt) The appreciation of the US dollar exchange rate against the Egyptian pound over the past few months has led to a lack of spare car parts, exceeding 70% of the market size ...

 Oct 25 2016 - Egypt- Automotive market loses 25.6% of its sales in first 8 months of 2016Daily News Egypt
(MENAFN - Daily News Egypt) Sales in the automotive market continue on their downward journey that began at the end of the last year. The sales figures for the first eight months of this year ...

 Oct 25 2016 - Cisco to Address Importance of Robust Cybersecurity for Financial Institutions at the ISFS 2016 in DohaMENAFN Press
(MENAFN Press) Doha, Qatar, October 25, 2016: Cisco today announced its participation in Qatar Central Bank’s third annual Conference for Information Security in Financial Institutions 2016 (ISFS ...

 Oct 25 2016 - Kuwait to relieve Syrian refugees during winterKuwait News Agency (KUNA)
(MENAFN - Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)) By Arwa Al-Wugayyan KUWAIT, Oct 25 (KUNA) -- With the winter onset, Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan will face difficult living conditions but Kuwaiti ...

 Oct 25 2016 - Kuwait- His Highness the Amir heads to Qatar to pay respect to late Sheikh Khalifa Al-ThaniKuwait News Agency (KUNA)
(MENAFN - Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)) His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah departed to Qatar Tuesday to offer his condolences over the death of late Qatari Father Amir Sheikh ...

 Oct 25 2016 -  Japan extends UN peacekeeping mission in S. SudanKuwait News Agency (KUNA)
(MENAFN - Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)) TOKYO, Oct. 25 (KUNA) -- The Japanese government on Tuesday decided to extend the deployment of Self-Defense Force (SDF) personnel for UN peacekeeping operations ...

 Oct 25 2016 - Kuwait- KUNA main news for Tuesday, Oct 25, 2016Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)
(MENAFN - Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)) Local: KUWAIT -- The National Council for Culture Arts and Letters (NCCAL) organizes a meeting for the Islamic heritage committee which is part of the ...

 Oct 25 2016 - Saudi security personnel gunned down in Dammam City - Interior MinistryKuwait News Agency (KUNA)
(MENAFN - Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)) RIYADH, Oct 25 (KUNA) -- Two security personnel were killed during a mysterious shooting which occurred in the city of Dammam in the eastern province of Saudi ...

 Oct 25 2016 - Some 20 people slightly injured in blast in AntalyaKuwait News Agency (KUNA)
(MENAFN - Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)) ISTANBUL, Oct 25 (KUNA) -- An explosion in the basement of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry center on Tuesday slightly wounded some 20 people in the southern ...





Middle East North Africa - Financial Network

MENAFN News Market Data Countries Tools Section  

Middle East North Africa - Financial Network

Main News
News By Industry
News By Country

Search News
Market Indices
Quotes & Charts

Global Indices
Arab Indices


Oil & Energy

Currencies Cross Rates
Currencies Updates
Currency Converter

USA Stocks
Arab Stocks

Saudi Arabia 

Economic Calendar
Financial Glossary

Financial Calculators

RSS Feeds [XML]

Corporate Monitor


Real Estate
Submit Your Property

Arab Research
Buy a Research

Press Releases
Submit your PR

Join Newsletters

© 2014 menafn.com All Rights Reserved.  Terms of Service | Privacy Policy | Contact Us | Advertise | About MENAFN | Career Opportunities | Feedback | Help