Gabon - Transportation
Until the 1970s, Gabon had no railroads. A 936-km (582-mi) railroad construction program, the Trans-Gabon Railway, began in October 1974. In its first stage, completed in 1983, the project linked the port of Owendo with the interior city of Booué (332 km/206 mi) at a cost of CFA Fr227 billion, plus CFA Fr98 billion for related infrastructure. The second stage, completed in December 1986, links Booué with Franceville (357 km/222 mi) via Moanda, thus facilitating exports of manganese from the southeast and forestry exploitation in the same region. A proposed third stage would continue the line from Booué to Belinga in the northeast, where there are iron ore deposits. As of 2002, Gabon State Railways totaled 649 km (403 mi) of standard-gauge track.
Main roads connect virtually all major communities, but maintenance work is difficult because of heavy rainfall. In 2002, the road network comprised 8,454 km (5,253 mi), of which 838 km (521 mi) were paved, including 30 km (19 mi) of expressways. A north-south road runs the length of the country, from Bitam to Ndendé. This main north-south link continues into Cameroon in the north and the Congo in the south. An east-west road connects Libreville and Mékambo. Farther south, another road runs from Mayumba to Lastoursville and Franceville. In 1995 there were about 23,000 automobiles and 10,000 commercial vehicles in use.
The busiest ports are Port-Gentil, the center for exports of petroleum products and imports of mining equipment, and Owendo, a new port that opened in 1974 on the Ogooué estuary, 10 km (6 mi) north of Libreville. Owendo's capacity, initially 300,000 tons, reached 1.5 million tons in 1979, when the port was enlarged to include timber-handling facilities. The smaller port at Mayumba also handles timber, and a deepwater port is planned for the city. In 1998, Gabon's merchant marine owned 2 vessels totaling 13,613 GRT. As of 2002, there was no merchant marine. Gabon has 1,600 km (994 mi) of perennially navigable waterways.
Gabon had 59 airports in 2001, 10 of which had paved runways. There are 3 international airports: Libreville (Leon M'Ba), Port-Gentil, and Franceville. Air Gabon is the national airline, serving European, West and Central African, and domestic destinations. Numerous other airlines also provide international flights. Air Affaires Gabon handles scheduled domestic service. In 2001, 373,900 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international airline flights.