DR CONGO: A programme to 'stabilise' the operations of national railway SNCC is due to start on June 16, when Belgian concessionaire Vecturis begins a two-year contract to manage the business and put in place measures to prevent further 'technical and operational degradation'.

The move follows an international tendering competition led by Copirep, the Steering Committee for the Reform of State Enterprises, and funded by the World Bank. SNCC's 3 641 km network of 1 067 mm gauge lines was severely impacted by recent fighting, and it is not clear now much of the network is operational, apart from a few lines in the Copperbelt around Lubumbashi.

Founded by former Comazar partners Eric Peiffer and Patrick Claes, Vecturis currently holds two railway concessions in Africa. Madarail took over from Comazar as operator of the 750 km northern railway network in Madagascar, where Claes is General Manager. Peiffer is Managing Director of TransRail, which operates the 1 228 km metre-gauge line linking the Malian capital Bamako with the port of Dakar in Senegal.

Meanwhile, Franco-Spanish group Progosa (Partners for a Modern Africa) has been awarded a 12-month technical assistance contract to support national transport agency Onatra, which operates the Kinshasa - Matadi line and ferry services on the Congo and Kasai rivers. This contract covers improvements to the management of Onatra and preparing the business for restructuring. Progosa has appointed Systra and PricewaterhouseCoopers to assist with the work.