Toward Railway Passenger Transport

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This editorial is addressed specifically to two persons and two institutions. The first person is the President of Liberia, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and the second, her Minister of Lands, Mines and Energy, Mr. Patrick Sendolo.  The two institutional addresses are ArcelorMittal and Putu Iron Ore Mining.

The subject is Enhancing Passenger Transport. In essence, we are appealing to the government and to these institutions to ensure that passenger transport is included in the railway developments in these two companies.

On Monday we carried a good story on ArcelorMittal, which announced that it had received six new locomotives to boost iron ore shipment. This was a good development, because it showed that the company is progressing businesswise by producing iron ore for export.  This is good for the economy.

But we wish here to remind ArcelorMittal and Putu Mines, as well as our government that they should not forget about the people and their dire need for transport.  Why?  This is because the roads in our country are still in deplorable condition, and it will take time for government to complete its highway development program. Meanwhile, the people of Liberia, from the southeast through Nimba, Bong and Grand Bassa, need alternative transport, which is thankfully feasible through the railroads.

Our immediate appeal is to ArcelorMittal, which is already operating its railway, to include, in addition to its fleet of ore locomotive carriers, those that are able to transport passengers as well. This seems to us a golden opportunity to make a big difference in passenger transportation, by adding a few cars to the railway fleet equipped for carrying people, personal belongings and produce to various destinations along the route from Yekepa through Nimba and  Bong to Bassa. Strategic picking up points could be created for this purpose and could be so organized as would not hamper the speedy transport of ore to the Port of Buchanan.

All that really needs to be done, LME Minister Sendolo, is carefully to institute a study on the feasibility, how it should be organized and executed without hampering the iron ore exports.  The study should be jointly undertaken by GOL, represented by LME and other relevant Agencies and ArcelorMittal.

Before the Putu railway, which will travel from Grand Gedeh County through River Gee, Grand Kru, Maryland and Sinoe counties, gets underway, a similar study should be jointly undertaken by LME, other relevant GOL Agencies and Putu Mines.  This would boost intra-southeastern travel and would be good for agriculture, business, health and even tourism.  Remember, it is the southeast that holds the nation’s largest and animal-rich forest reserve, the Sapo National Park. There are other impressive touristic sites, too, in the southeast that could be developed as important tourist destinations.

These ideas for passenger railway transport are being put forward not only to enhance easy travel but also to help our people who for generations have been handicapped by the lack of efficient transport to take them from one place to another within Liberia.  Let us remember that railway transport has been successfully developed in the North America and Europe, making travel easy and cheap.  Some African nations, including South

Africa and even Rwanda are developing passenger and cargo railway transport, too, and this has proven to be great for business.

What man–and woman–have done, man and woman can still do.   So let us in Liberia get busy and start doing what we have to do to improve transportation of people and goods throughout our country.  Our iron ore mines have given us this opportunity.  Let us seize it and move forward.

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