The Cameroonian parliament is due to vote on a new law governing the railway sector in the next few days. The bill submitted to the parliament, yesterday, June 13, suggests the establishment of a state railway company for the management of the public assets in the sector. According to the bill, the company will manage infrastructure and regulate operators’ access to railways, with an exclusive concession right on the national rail network.
The bill also includes the creation of a rail regulation and safety authority that will monitor and enforce regulations, supervise public and private stakeholders, and resolve pre-litigation disputes.
Overall, the bill "initiates the modernization of the sector, by reconfiguring the institutional landscape, redefining the role of each player, and establishing a monitoring, regulation, and penalty system,” the preamble reads.
The text is based on the recommendations of the audit carried out after the Eseka rail accident in October 2016, which claimed nearly 80 lives. The last law governing the rail sector dates back to 1974. In addition to this outdated regulatory framework, the sector has for many years suffered from several shortcomings and inadequacies. The bill cites: "the continuing deterioration of infrastructure, the drastic fall in passenger numbers from 1.4 million in 2010 to 600,000 in 2021…”
It also cites “the drop in the volume of goods transported, estimated at 1.6 million in 2021 compared with 1.9 million in 2010, the closure of the Mbanga-Kumba and Ngoumou-Mbalmayo routes, the lack of investment and the deterioration in service quality, the weakness of State control and penalty instruments in this sector, which is becoming less competitive by the day".
According to the government’s figures, Cameroon’s railway network has been static, at 1,270 kilometers since 1974, with 270 kilometers of that network now degraded and unused. Also, “no additional lines have been created since 1974,” the government says.