The Trans-Gabon Railway (French: Transgabonais) is the only railway in Gabon. It runs 670 km east from Owendo port station in Libreville to Franceville via numerous stations, the main ones being Ndjolé, Lopé, Booué, Lastoursville and Moanda.
Map of the Trans-Gabon Railway line
|Line length||669 km (416 mi)|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge|
A railway was first planned in 1885. Investigations into the line were conducted in 1968, funding was agreed in 1973, and construction began the following year. The first section, from Owendo to Ndjolé, opened in 1978, with the remaining sections opening in stages until December 1986. Costs were well over budget and almost bankrupted the country.
The Trans-Gabon Railroad is overall adjacent the Ogooue River until Ndjolé. Most important constructions are the Juckville Tunnel, the viaduct over the Abanga swamp, and the bridge over the confluence between the Ogooue and the Ivindo Rivers.
The line to Franceville was completed in 1987.
Originally intended to reach Makokou and carry iron ore, its route was changed for political reasons, namely to keep within national borders manganese ore traffic from COMILOG that went on the COMILOG Cableway via the Republic of Congo. When the railway reached the manganese mine at Moanda, the Cableway was closed.
Construction and specifications
Because the line was built well into the era of earthmoving machinery, the need to choose a narrow gauge to save costs was no longer important. However the choice of standard gauge (1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in)) took advantage of off the shelf equipment. It was constructed by a consortium of Impregilo, Astaldi, Philipp Holzmann, Constructions Et Entreprises Industrielles and Entreprise De Construction Franco-Africaine.
Following the injection of sterling from the then P.M Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative government, the discovery of uranium helped to secure British interest in the project. Many UK expatriates took the place of French workers and the building of the railway progressed rapidly from this point. Circa May 1983 CCI Eurotrag (a consortium of British, Italian and German interests) took over funding. British firms involved included Wimpey International, who seconded staff to Taylor Woodrow.
The initial building of 182kms from Owendo to Ndjole took over 10 years to complete. The remaining 400+kms took only 5 years.
In 2003 Hughes Network Systems (see Hughes Communications) installed a satellite based telephony system into all the railway stations of the railway.
In June 2006 a new line for iron ore from Belinga to port was announced. It is unclear if it will use part of the existing line. The track will be standard gauge. This line was supposed to open in 2012, but in 2014 completion is still awaited.
Two EMD JT42CWR locomotives shipped September 2011. A further 4 locomotives and 10 passenger coaches were also ordered.
There are no links with the adjacent states of Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, or the Republic of the Congo. The railway is important for transporting timber and uranium in addition to being the only important public transport route in the nation. In 1996, the railway carried 3MT of freight and 190,000 passengers. The Trans-Gabon Railway, 669 km (416 mi) has 23 stations.
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