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DR CONGO: Belgium-based African rail operator Vecturis is assisting with an ambitious World Bank supported project to rehabilitate the Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Congolais network.

The project was officially launched by President Joseph Kabila last November. Work planned for 2010 includes renewal of track between Tenke and Kisanfu and rehabilitation of 350 wagons and 17 locomotives.

Pensions are to be provided for employees due to retire within five years, as SNCC has 12500 staff with an average age of 55 years and salary payments totalling US$1·4bn many months in arrears.

The SNCC network totals 3641 route-km with 858 km electrified at 25 kV 50 Hz, but the infrastructure is '20 years overdue' for investment.

SNCC plans to acquire 35 locomotives, 100 coaches, 200 wagons and two substations. It will repair 700 km of track from Sakania on the Zambian border to Lubumbashi, Tenke and Luilu; from Kamina to Kabalo; and between Kimanda and Mwene-Ditu.

A four-year rehabilitation of the urban rail network in Kinshasa is already underway as part of an agreement signed between DR Congo and Belgium in 2007.