1,344-kilometer railway that traverses Angola started operating on Saturday, becoming the fastest line in the nation, according to its builder, China Railway Construction Corp.
The Benguela Railway links the Atlantic port of Lobito on the west to the eastern border town of Luau, as well as to rail networks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, of Zambia and beyond, the Beijing-based infrastructure giant said in a statement. It is the second-longest railway to be built by a Chinese company for Africa, after the Tanzania-Zambia line, which was built in the 1970s.
The new line, under construction since 2004, will be linked with the Angola-Zambia railway and the Tanzania-Zambia railway in the future, the statement said, adding that it’s all part of a “grand international rail passage” connecting the Atlantic and Indian oceans.
There are 67 stops and 42 bridges, significantly facilitating travel and trade, project engineers said, noting that many Angolans have moved to places along the line. Trains can run at speeds of up to 90 km/h on the Benguela line. By contrast, other train services peak at about 30 km/h, said Mu Qingfeng, a senior manager for the construction project.
The Benguela Railway was first completed by Portuguese colonists in 1912 to link the Lobito and Benguela with Huambo, Angola’s second-largest city. The line was deserted in 1975, a year that saw both the independence of Angola and the beginning of a 27-year civil war.
“The design and construction of the new Benguela line adopted Chinese standards, while tracks, cement, communication instruments and large mechanical equipment used in the project were brought from China, “Liu Feng, the project’s chief, said. “More than 20 Chinese workers died during the project,” Liu added.
Wang Hongyi, an expert on African studies at the China Institute of International Studies, said: “Historically, most infrastructure construction projects in Africa use European standards, so the completion of the Benguela railway has great importance in China’s effort to export its own standards and establish Chinese enterprises’ reputation.”
He said that a large number of small Chinese companies would benefit from overseas infrastructure projects. “Such projects not only enable them to tap into the international market but also help to make use of excess manufacturing capacity,” Wang said.