E Jul 2014

Africa is one of the railway sector’s most promising markets: an analysis of the projects in the Sub-Saharan area

Mal d’Afrique has struck the staff at Railway Engineering too. And anyone who knows anything at all about this fascinating and contradictory continent, with its undoubted potential for growth and immense development, will understand that it could not have been otherwise. We decided to make an analysis, partial of course, of the numerous railway projects involving West Africa. An interesting situation emerges, and a backdrop that shows how this portion of Africa might, in years to come, become one of the most interesting areas in the world for the development of new rail networks. What also emerges is the desire of many countries in the area to develop rail transport, not as an essentially national infrastructure but as a network at a regional level at least, designed to support and develop the economy.

Of course, many projects are still directly linked to the exploitation of the abundant natural resources, but the idea is gradually spreading that the lines to be built cannot and should not be exclusively geared to the interests of the mining companies. In any case, analysts agree in singling out West Africa as one of the areas which, in the next few years, will record the highest percentage growth rates in investments in rail infrastructures. We shall be dealing again with Africa, recounting some of these large projects more in detail. In this issue we shall continue our tour through the structure of Rete Ferroviaria Italiana, describing the organisation and projects of one of the most important Regional Directorates, that of Tuscany. This has enabled us to discover how excellent connections are guaranteed along the three main national lines, the High Speed line from Bologna to Rome, the historic line known by railway workers as the Slow Line and the Tyrrhenian line. Similarly, Tuscany is affected by heavy regional traffic and also offers, in the splendid hills south of Siena, one of the most charming tourist rail services available in Italy today.

We then move to Sardinia, where the cities of Sassari and Cagliari boast modern metro-tramway systems which are to be extended and upgraded in the near future. Also particularly interesting is the choice of ARST – the regional company responsible for local public road-rail transport services – to focus firmly on tram and train systems, using to advantage the already existing narrow gauge rail network. This is a demonstration that, even at a time in our history when it is not easy to find funding for the upgrading of public transport, careful and proactive management can devise innovative solutions with the power to produce a giant leap forward in terms of the quality of the service offered. The issue is completed by a number of excellent technical articles – the one based on the study of human error in the design engineering and management of safety systems is of special interest. This is a topic that is always on the agenda for the railway, which is universally acknowledged to be the safest means of transport we have at our disposal.