Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Making Tracks In Nigeria

Interesting story by way of The Guardian about plans in Nigeria to build a railroad in the country's commercial center, Lagos; a city that is literally clogged with people. According to businesspeople interviewed by The Guardian, daily commutes of three hours – each way – are not uncommon. Part of the problem is the geography of Lagos; the city is built on a series of islands in a swampy marshland, limiting access points in and out of the city. Still, these limitations aren't putting the breaks on Lagos' growth, projections are that within the next five years it will surpass Cairo to become Africa's largest city with a population soaring past the 12 million mark.

That's where EkoRail comes in with their plan to eventually build seven passenger rail lines, each costing about $1 billion apiece, to swiftly move people in and out of the city. Projections are that the rail lines could carry 1.4 million people per day. That, EkoRail says, will have a massive benefit throughout society in Lagos as people will be able to shave literally hours off of their current commute, giving them free time they never before had. EkoRail is also building its own electric-generation plant to power the rail lines; extra power will be sold to towns and villages around Lagos.

Like many major infrastructure projects in Africa today, EkoRail is being partially underwritten and built by the Chinese, who have shipped in many Chinese engineers and laborers to work on the construction of the network. EkoRail's backers have grand plans beyond just moving commuters in Lagos, they are studying the possibility of extending one of the network's lines westward to eventually link Lagos with the neighboring countries of Togo, Benin and Ghana.
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