African Union of Railways
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- 1 Overview
- 2 Conferences
- 3 Timeline
- 4 Related organisations
- 5 Similar organisations
- 6 See also
- 7 References
Africa's railways are disjointed and disconnected. The AUR hopes to rectify things. In 2012, there seem to be a large number of railway projects about to get off the drawing board, some of which will connect railway systems in different countries. The more interconnectivity, the more the need for consistent standards.
The AUR sees that conversion to a common gauge is too difficult and expensive due to the gauge muddle, but based on reports from the World Bank, does see the following gauges as preferred in the following regions:
- North - 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in)
- South - 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in) mostly connected and quite strong. Sierra Leone and Nigeria isolated.
- East - 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in) (but Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and isolated Ethiopia are 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 3⁄8 in)).
- West - 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 3⁄8 in)
- 610 mm (2 ft) South Africa NG
- 950 mm (3 ft 1 3⁄8 in) Eritrea NG
- 1,055 mm (3 ft 5 1⁄2 in) Algeria NG - isolated systems
- Scattered mining railways - 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) plus Gabon.
Several railways such as Senegal, Guinea and Tanzania have talked about conversion to standard gauge, though it remains to be seen if talk develops into action. Guinea built one new branch as standard gauge even though metre gauge is needed to take the ore to the port. Nigeria has built one short branch with dual gauge sleepers, and a network aiming to serve the port of Warri is also standard gauge. An extension from Tanzania into Rwanda is proposed as standard gauge, though it starts at a station that is already a container transhipment Dry port. Mining railways that carry very large tonnages (>10MTPA) are generally standard gauge.
Couplings in use include:
- European style buffers and chains, the spacing and height of the buffers varying with the gauge;
- Norwegian chopper couplings of various kinds, which are low in strength and obsolete.
- AAR coupler - an automatic type used throughout the contiguous Southern African network.
- SA3 coupler - an automatic type.
- More than one of the above, such as buffers
- There are a few other uncommon and obsolete types, such as those used in Benin.
The American AAR coupler is the most widely used of the modern types, and is usable with the heaviest trains of regularly 32,000 t (31,500 long tons; 35,300 short tons).
Whatever the advantages of the modern SA3 coupler, it is not as widely used as the AAR. It is not clear if the SA3 is suitable for the heaviest trains.
Match wagons can overcome incompatibilities at the price of extra weight. Similarly with coupling adaptors.
The type of coupling is less important when trains travel in fixed block loads.
Modern wagons are usually built with drawgear designed for easy conversion to some kind of centre coupling such as the AAR or SA3.
Westinghouse air brakes and vacuum brakes (or no continuous brakes at all) are usually fitted. Dual brakes or piped only can overcome incompatibilities. Vacuum brakes are considered to be obsolete. Electronically controlled pneumatic brakes (ECP) are starting to be fitted on faster, heavy-duty trains for higher performance, and the two ECP systems are compatible. Air brakes are to be preferred to vacuum brakes because of their greater power.
Most railways is Africa are diesel-operated, but electrification where it exists it mostly conforms to the modern standard of 25 kV AC, with some obsolete systems using the older 3kVDC. Trams in cities are usually low voltage such as 750VDC. Dual and multi voltage locomotives and electric multiple units (EMUs) are proven technology. Africa has great hydro-electric potential to run electric trains with, though this would not happen overnight.
Loading gauges vary considerably, and through trains would be forced to use the most restrictive loading gauge along its route. The structure gauge of tunnels and bridges needs to be about 1 m (3.28 ft) taller to allow for piggy back operation of trains of one gauge on the wagons of another gauge.
Axle loads vary considerable, depending on the strength of the track, especially the weight of the rails which are generally too light for modern traffic. A reasonable minimum rail weight is 40 kg/m (80.64 lb/yd), though 50 kg/m (100.80 lb/yd) or 60 kg/m (120.95 lb/yd) would be preferred for heavy duty use.
Train lengths and crossing loop lengths
Crossing loops should be as long as the longest likely train, considered globally. Some UIC standards are 750 and 1,500 m (820 and 1,640 yd).
Because of dangers imposed by wild animals such as lions, manual control of loops turnouts is not necessarily a good idea, and some degree of automation of these turnouts, and fencing, is desirable.
Confusion and even accidents can occur if more than one language (or accent) is used to operate a railway. A simplified language such as seaspeak would be useful to reduce such problems.
- Pécrot rail crash with confusion of Dutch and French speakers.
- Complicated phrases can be simplified by using say telegraphic codes.
- Words can be spelled out over noisy lines using say the NATO phonetic alphabet.
Namibian railways has recently done more than talk about a link with Angola, but has built nearly 300 km (190 mi) of such a line as of 2007. Namibia has been using Tubular Modular Track which is not gauge convertible. Tubular Track is good for sandy terrain as found in deserts.
These gauge plans may be upset by Nigeria's albeit glacial programme to convert its 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in) gauge lines to 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) which would seed a standard gauge network in adjacent countries, especially those landlocked countries with no railways at all. Nigeria has installed some dual-gauge concrete sleepers just in case.
Libya started in 2007 building a completely new 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) railway system, albeit slowly. A link across the Sahara to Central Africa, probably Nigeria, would also spur the growth of 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) connections, which make use of continuous access to the Middle East, Europe, and even China in the foreseeable future. In March 2011, the works ground to a halt because of the revolution with no news when or even if they would resume.
Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda
Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda are odd men in the 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in) South & East zone as they use 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 3⁄8 in) gauge.
The latest plans for a greatly expanded railway with links to adjoining countries are to build new lines in standard gauge and possibly upgrade and convert existing metre gauge lines to the same wider gauge.
Iron ore railways
Heavy duty iron ore railways in Africa carry much more traffic than ordinary railways so they almost always adopt standard gauge to make use of proven off the shelf technology. New such lines are looming in Cameroon, Senegal and Guinea. Gabon is already 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in). The Transguinean Railways is proposed to be standard gauge. Some standard gauge lines in Liberia are to be restored. An isolated 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) gauge line in Sierra Leone is to be converted to standard gauge
- Main article: Timeline of African Union of Railways
- Railway Corridors in Continent to be Connected - The UAR is set to work out modalities on how to link all railway corridors in the continent.
- Northern Corridor Transit Coordination Authority
- Southern African Railway Association
- United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) 
- Southern African Railway Association
- ECOWAS rail
- Lions of Tsavo
- CHIPATA RAILWAY | Railways Africa
- "Africa: Railway Corridors in Continent to Be Connected". AllAfrica.com. 2007-10-23. Retrieved 2007-10-23.
- The New Times Rwanda
- RailwaysAfrica May 2009, p8