This week, a new $1.3 billion commuter railway in Senegal set to ease traffic gridlock and boost a crumbling public transport system made its maiden journey from the capital Dakar.
The Regional Express will connect Dakar with Diamniadio, an industrial city that is being set up on a dusty plain some 40 kilometres (25 miles) away.
Since Senegal’s independence from France in 1960, this is the first new railway which is a cornerstone of President Macky Sall’s Senegal Emergent plan, which includes a new airport, roads, sports arenas and a sleek conference centre.
The projects have furbished Senegal’s image as one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies. The air-conditioned trains are set to shrink pollution in Dakar, where banged-up old buses and taxis always hurl clouds of black smoke as they inch towards the capital every morning.
“Senegalese people deserve to travel in comfort and safety, while controlling their time, with a mass transport system that meets the best international standards,” the government said via a Monday statement.
In a nation where 50 per cent of the population lives in abject poverty, the 45 minute ride with built-in Wi-Fi will cost some $3. However, shorter trips will be less costly.
Every day, some 115,000 passengers will commute on the train between Dakar and Diamniadio, the government said.
Further extensions will see the railway connect the main airport and eventually other cities and towns in the coming years.