Following the closure of borders between Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the International African Rail Transport Company (Sitarail) suspended passenger transport between Ouagadougou and Abidjan, a heavily traveled route.
Since then, only freight transport has been operational. After months of negotiations, the transitional government of Burkina Faso has secured the resumption of passenger trains, but only on the Burkinabè side. This resumption has been eagerly awaited by the population. The inaugural train departed from Ouagadougou to Bobo Dioulasso on Friday.
After several missed opportunities, the passenger train finally sounded its departure whistle. On board for the occasion were members of the transitional government and workers from the railway company. Oumarou Mogmenga, the second driver, expressed his gratitude for the resumption: “It is a blessing for us that this can resume. Everything is in place for us to reach our destination and stop at stations like Koudougou, Sibi, and Bobo Dioulasso.”
The train will not cross the border
A weekly train with a capacity of 192 passengers is planned. However, passengers will not cross the Ivorian border. The terminus is in Bobo Dioulasso, approximately 150 kilometers from the Ivorian border. Roland Somda, Burkina Faso’s Minister of Transport, explained, “It has come to our knowledge that the Ivorian side claims not to be ready for the resumption of passenger trains under current conditions.”
“Removing this bottleneck”
The minister continued, “is that the railway infrastructure would not be in an acceptable condition to allow passenger activity. This is what we have learned from the concessionaire through correspondence addressed to them by Ivorian authorities. We take note of this and are working to remove this bottleneck with the other concerned authority, namely the Ivorian side.”
Regarding security, Burkinabè authorities assure the public that appropriate measures have been taken to secure passengers and their belongings.