It’s like a Christmas present that the Senegalese no longer hoped for. The first section of the Regional Express Train (TER), linking downtown Dakar to the new town of Diamniadio (36 km) in 35 minutes, was inaugurated on December 27 with great fanfare by President Macky Sall. This means of transport wants to be popular with costs, subsidized, between 500 and 1,500 CFA francs (between 0.76 and 2.28 €) up to 2,500 Fr. CFA (4 €) for the 1D class. Eventually, 115,000 passengers are expected each day with train rotations every 10 minutes.
Showcase of emergence
With very dense urban traffic and monstrous traffic jams, the transport offer in Dakar was insufficient for its 3 million inhabitants. The capital concentrates 25% of the population and 87% of the permanent jobs of the country on an area representing 0.7% of the national territory. Suffice to say that unclogging the capital was necessary.
“Dakar supports the entire Senegalese economy. The TER will solve this problem of concentration of population, activities and traffic”, explains Abdou Ndéné Sall, the general manager of Senter, the National Society for the management of TER heritage. According to a study by the World Bank, congestion in Dakar causes the national economy to lose 152 million euros a year.
Flagship project of the Emerging Senegal Plan, the development plan launched by President Macky Sall in 2014, “the TER will be the backbone of transport in Dakar”, he promised. The president also hopes to revitalize the economy of the municipalities served to make them dynamic cities, future economic poles.
Equipped with the latest technologies, this TER operates on a dual mode (electricity and diesel), which makes it “5 times less polluting”, according to Macky Sall. “It combines comfort, reliability, regularity and increased efficiency in travel thanks to a top speed of 160 km/h», added the Senegalese president.
After studies in 2014, the project was officially launched in December 2016 by the Agency for the Promotion of Investments and Major Works (Apix), and work began in 2017. To the five Senegalese companies solicited were added around twenty foreign companies, notably Turkish but above all French.
France is indeed a privileged partner. The construction of the track was entrusted to the Franco-Turkish-Senegalese consortium Eiffage, Yapi Merkezi and the Compagnie sahélienne d’entreprises (CSE); the design and construction of the systems to Engie and Thales, while Alstom manufactured the 15 trains in Alsace. The operation and maintenance of the train for 5 years has been entrusted to the TER operating company (Seter), a subsidiary of the SNCF.
During the construction phase of the TER, 8,500 jobs were created locally while 984 people were recruited and trained for operation during the first phase. “There should be a creation of around 2,000 indirect jobs, particularly at stations which will attract commercial activities and become economic hubs”, underlines Abdou Ndéné Sall.
A criticized project
Repeatedly postponed between 2018 and 2021, the introduction of the first TER in West Africa had become a mirage. Its sumptuous inauguration, on January 14, 2019, on the eve of the presidential election of February 2022, had finished annoying: while the work was far from over, Macky Sall was pleased with the “very first railway project in the history of independent Senegal »…
Africa and the European Union, partners for the future
To the delays in the construction of certain stations or in the payment of service providers were added criticism of an overly ambitious project, the share of foreign companies and especially its cost of more than 1.1 billion euros financed by the African Bank development, the Islamic Development Bank, the French Development Agency (AFD), the French Treasury and the Senegalese government. The opposition speaks of more than 1.5 billion euros. More than 16,000 people also denounce their expropriation for the construction of the TER.
A rail revival
A second phase of the TER is planned by the end of 2023 to connect the new urban center of Diamniadio over 19 km to Dakar International Airport (AIBD). The Dakar-AIBD trip should therefore take 45 minutes.
In the medium term, the cities of Mbour and Thiès will also be served before the network is extended, particularly in Casamance, a region with significant resources but landlocked, or in mining areas. “The president has the ambition to make a complete rail network of the country. The TER has a major role to play in boosting the economy of the regions, assures, confident, Abdou Ndéné Sall. Mobility brings growth. »
The discontent of the expropriated
They are some 16,000, mechanics, market gardeners or other occupants expropriated along the route of the Dakar regional express train (TER). 2,000 have filed complaints with Apix, the public agency which has overseen the project, and are claiming 76 million euros from the Senegalese State, considering that it has not valued correctly land. One of the problems is that the route of the TER is located in slum areas, where title deeds do not exist.Resettlement sites have been planned, ” but none have been fitted out”, underline the people concerned.