After a seven-year hiatus, passenger service has finally resumed on the main line of the Congo-Ocean Railway (CFCO) linking Pointe-Noire and Brazzaville.
One train per week has been connecting Congo's two largest cities since April 27. A convenient means of transport for passengers like Sage Mayetela.
"I am at the central station of Brazzaville because I am waiting for a connecting train, to go to the locality of Kibouendé in the Pool region to give a training to local communities there."
"I am happy that the train is back to thios region of Pool."
It was the destruction of bridges in the southern Pool region during clashes between teh Congolese security forces and ex-ninja fighters that caused the closure of the line in 2016.
Authorities reopened freight traffic in November 2018. Passengers had to wait for 5 additional years. Those who embarked on the 510 km-long-journey that lasts for 16 hours expressed mixed feelings.
"Yesterday, we left Pointe-Noire at 4 PM. Given the state of the road, the train ran slowly until we arrived here in Brazzavile," shopkeeper Bestman Esaïe detailed.
"Inside the train, frankly, the toilets leave a lot to be desired. I told the ticket inspectors and the gendarmes inside. I hope my observations will be considered," Germain la Fontaine
The rails of the Congo-Ocean Railway are old. Transport minister Honoré Sayi admits but he also stated his ambition to launch refurbishment works.
"This railroad is not two years old. It has operated for a long time. Therefore, we have a lot of experience and have skilled personnel. Since it is a strategic corridor in the sub-regional transit, the railroad must move forward. This is a question for which we should not turn the difficulty into an impossibility. The difficulty is there, but the impossibility can be overcome. I hope that with major donors and determined Congolese, we will move forward"
The railroad has been the lifeline of the Congolese economy for a long time. It could pride itself on being the only land route between Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire. However, it has recently been competing with a paved road built thanks to Chinese cooperation.