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TRANSPORT IN CAMEROON

With good infrastructure travel is a lot easier here than in many parts of Africa. The main means to get around in Cameroon are rail, road, air and water.

Railways

The railway makes travel from North to South possible and stress free. Train service between North and South is generally a reliable way to travel, but can sometimes be delayed. Purchase a first class ticket to ensure your spot on an air-conditioned car. The trip may take longer than expected, but the safety is worth the delay.

History of rail transport in Cameroon

German colonial period

The topography of Cameroon with mountains and dense forest belt made constructing railways to the port at Douala very difficult. The first operating railway constructed by the private West African Planting Society Victoria (WAPV) was 600 mm (1 ft 11 5?8 in) on the Feldbahn line. Initially, this railway plied Zwingenberger Hof in Soppo, near Buea, the colonial capital of German Kamerun to port Victoria, now known as Limbe, from 1901 to 1919. It also offered a passenger service which was later expanded. 

The second railway that was built is the Douala, Nkongsamba railway, also known as the Northern Railway (Nordbahn) was 160 km (99 mi) long.  The third is the Douala, Ngaoundere railway, also known as the Central Railway (Mittellandbahn). These two lines were built in 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 3?8 in) meter gauge, setting the standards for future railway construction in Cameroon.

French and British mandate
After the 1918 Resolution the major part of Cameroon was handed over to France as a League of Nations mandate, with parts handed to the United Kingdom. The League of Nations “trusteeship” did not animate the French colonial powers to make greater investment in Cameroon’s railways. Initially, they did nothing more than restore the lines constructed under German rule back to a workable state.  

The Northern Railway and the Central Railway were merged into the Chemins de fer de Cameroun (CFC), but they continued to operate as two separate networks. Construction of the Douala - Mbalmayo railway project was completed by the French authorities, but the route was diverted to Yaoundé, which was reached in 1927. The seat of the colonial administration was then moved there. 

The closure bridging the gap to Mbalmayo was first achieved by a 600 mm (1 ft 11 5?8 in) railway from Otélé, with Feldbahn locomotion and rolling stock. In 1933 this extension was converted to metre gauge. The changeover to diesel operation was accelerated from 1950 because all coal had to be imported from South Africa and this led to repeated irregularities in the course of delivery. In 1955, a structural link was made between the Central Railway and the Northern Railway, via a 12 km (7.5 mi) long section of line and a 1,850 m (6,070 ft) long bridge over the Wouri River.

Republic of Cameroon
After Independent in 1960, the Republic of Cameroon has diverted its initial rail transport efforts to the construction of a 29 km (18 mi) km long branch from the Northern Railway to Kumba. This line started operating in 1969. The new Republic’s biggest project was a 622 km (386 mi) extension of the Central Railway from Yaoundé to Ngaoundéré. This extension started operating in 1974.

The maximum length of rail network constructed in Cameroon ever is 1,120 km (700 mi). In the 1970s, the Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC) commissioned a new railway similar to, and immediately to the east of, Cameroon’s original WAPV network. Reports as to its gauge vary between 600 mm (1 ft 11 5?8 in) and 610 mm (2 ft). A lower level section of the Central Railway was partially refurbished between 1975 and 1983. However, the line was closed beyond Nkongsamba, and some of the tracks removed. 

The global privatisation wave reached Cameroon’s railway network in 1996. A 30 year concession for the operation of the network was awarded on 19th January, 1999 to Camrail, an ancillary of Groupe Bolloré. Camrail, also known as Cameroon Railways, carries passengers as well as freight.

Infrastructure
There are plans towards the construction of an iron ore railway, which might however be isolated from existing railways. The distance from the mine to the nearest likely port is about 500 km. A connection to the nearest Camrail line at Mbalmayo on the Nyong River would be 350 km long. Because of the heavy tonnages to be carried, this railway is likely to be 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1?2 in) (standard gauge).

The railway is being designed with Quantm software. The railway would run from mines near Mbalam to a port near Lolabe. The expected traffic is 35 million tonnes per year for 25 years. Extensions of the rail network to Maroua and Yokadouma to promote the forestry industry were also recommended. Separate from the metre gauge mainlines were narrow gauge plantation railways, especially in the Tiko area. These served the cocoa and sugar plantations in that vicinity.

Adjacent countries
There are currently no railways links linking the country to neighbouring countries yet. The nearest, Nigeria’s railway system (1067mm) has come to Cameroon is Maiduguri which is over 100 km from the northern Cameroon border. The Gabon rail system (1435mm standard gauge) and Congolese rail systems (1067mm Cape gauge) are not near to the Cameroonian border. 

The only account of railway line that came very close to Cameroon is the standard gauge railway line in Chad, constructed from funding in 2011; it included a line to Moundou and Koutéré near the Cameroon border, and also links up to Nyala on the border of Sudan. Railways in Cameroon are operated by Camrail, supported by a French investment group, Bolloré. As of 2008, the country had an estimated 987 km of 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 3?8 in) gauge track. In 2007, the traffic on the line was estimated to be 1Mt per year freight, including 1 million passengers per year.

Camrail
Camrail is the nationally accredited company that has been granted a 20 year concession to operate the Cameroon National Railway. This Cameroonian company is an ancillary of French investment group Bolloré. The railway has been operated by Comazar, also an ancillary of Bolloré, since 1999. According to the Comazar website, the government of Cameroon owns the track while the rolling stock is owned by Camrail.

 

Roadways

Total highways recorded in Cameroon total 50,000 km with 5,000 km paved and 45,000 km unpaved as of the year 2008. Cameroon lies on a pivotal point on the Trans-African Highway network, with three routes crossing its territory:

- Dakar-N'Djamena Highway, connecting just over the Cameroon border with the N'Djamena-Djibouti Highway
- Lagos-Mombasa Highway
- Tripoli-Cape Town Highway

Cameroon’s central location in the network means that efforts to close the gaps which exist in the network across Central Africa depend largely on Cameroon’s participation in maintaining the network, since the it has the potential to profoundly influence Cameroon’s regional trade. Except for the relatively good toll roads which connect major cities (all of them one-lane), roads are poorly maintained and subject to foul weather.

Only 10 per cent of the road network is tarred though there is a high likelihood that within a decade, a great deal of trade between West Africa and Southern Africa will be patronizing the network through Yaoundé. Prices of petrol rose steadily in 2007 and 2008, leading to a strike by transport union in Douala on 25 February, 2008. The strike quickly escalated into violent protests and spread to other major cities. The uproar finally subsided on 29 February.

Waterways

Major rivers in the south, such as the Wouri and the Sanaga, are largely non-navigable. In the north, the Benue, which connects through Nigeria to the Niger River, is navigable in the rainy season only to the port of Garoua, 2010 2,090 km of decreasing importance. Navigation mainly on the Benue River is limited during rainy season.

Seaports and harbors
Among all the operating maritime ports in Cameroon, Douala is the busiest and the most important. Lesser ports include Kribi, used chiefly for the export of wood, and Limbé, used only for palm-oil exports. Garoua on the Benoué River is the main river port, but it is active only from July to September. In 2005, Cameroon’s merchant fleet consisted of one petroleum tanker, totaling 169,593 Gross Register Tonnage (GRT).
•    Douala - main port, railhead, and second largest city
•    Bonaberi - railhead to northwest
•    Garoua
•    Kribi - oil pipeline from Chad
•    Kribi South - proposed iron ore export port, about 40 km south of Kribi.
•    Tiko

Pipelines
Pipe lines that carry Gas, Liquid petroleum gas, Oil, and water respectively are Gas 53 km; liquid petroleum gas 5 km; oil 1,107 km; water 35 km  as of the year 2013.

Airways

The main international airport is the Douala International Airport. Other secondary international airports can be found at Yaoundé and Garoua. In total, there were 34 airports in 2008, only 10 of which had paved runways. Among the international airlines serving Cameroon are Alitalia, Swiss, Iberia and Air Mali.
List of airports in Cameroon:

Airports - with paved runways
-  Total: 11
-  over 3,047 m: 2
- 2,438 to 3,047 m: 5
- 1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
-  914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2013)

Airports - with unpaved runways
- Total: 22
- 1,524 to 2,437 m: 4
- 914 to 1,523 m: 10
- Under 914 m: 8 (2013)