On Monday December 27, Senegal welcomed a new commuter railway line after 5 years of work on the project, the Dakar Regional Express Train (TER).

This transport system is aimed at reducing journey times and also decongesting the city once the TER regional express begins operation. Travelling at up 160 kilometres per hour, the trains will ply the 36-kilometre route between Dakar and the new city of Diamniadio in about 20 minutes.

The project is a part of the economic development plan of Senegal and aims to offer services for the Dakar suburbs by replacing Petit Train de Banlieue (PTB). Dakar TER is an ultra-modern transport system that will link Dakar with AIBD in 45 minutes through a 55km-long track passing through 14 stations.

The project was implemented in two phases, with phase one involving the upgrade of the 36km-long existing infrastructure between Dakar and Diamniadio stations. Phase two involved the construction of a 19km-long railway line between Diamniadio station and the AIBD.

According to the general manager for SETER, the TER operating company, Frédéric Bardenet only a selected group pf people will be allowed to use the train when operation begins. “…we will transport all the school children on the line, as well sports and cultural associations. We are still in the phase of programme implementation.”

The city’s five million inhabitants make up almost one-third of Senegal’s population and account for nearly all of the country’s economic activity. The trains will carry 115,000 people per day, saving passengers hours otherwise spent in vehicular congestion. Traffic jams cost the city the equivalent of $172 million per year, according to official figures. SETER will use 15 four-car dual-mode trains with diesel and electric power, built by French company Alstom.

Frédéric Bardenet, explained ” I know that in Dakar, there has is controversy about the TER being behind schedule, but this is not the case, we are almost breaking world records in terms of construction, in terms of completion of this project. “ Critics say the true cost of the project is over $1.7 billion. The Dakar TER project is estimated to have attracted an investment of $1.14 billion. The first phase of the project was funded by the African Development Bank, the Islamic Development Bank, the French Agency for Development, the French Treasury, and the Government of Senegal.

Angry residents who are claiming compensation from government for taking their lands for the project may mar Monday’s opening of the railway as they have already issued threats.

The residents say the projects has affected their lives negatively. “The TER has impoverished us. It’s a project that has created the living dead,” said Amina Bayo, a member of Cisse’s campaign group, called the Collective of People Affected by the TER.

The TER stations will link up with express buses, which will operate on reserved lanes on a toll highway that has been operating for the last decade.

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