Sierra Leone - Transportation

In 1970 there were more than 580 km (360 mi) of railway, but by the end of 1975, following an IBRD recommendation, Sierra Leone had dismantled most of its rail system and replaced it with new roadways; since the mid-1980s, only 84 km (52 mi) of narrow-gauge railway has remained, connecting the closed iron mines at Marampa with the port of Pepel, on the Sierra Leone River. The line remains operable but is in limited use. In 2002, Sierra Leone had about 11,700 km (7,270 mi) of roads, of which some 936 km (582 mi) were paved. In 2000, there were 35,900 registered motor vehicles, including 20,100 automobiles, and 15,80 commercial vehicles.

Freetown has one of the finest natural harbors in the world, with an excellent deepwater quay, built in 1953. In 1970, work was completed on an extension that provides the port with berth facilities for six to eight ships and about 24 hectares (60 acres) of storage area. Pepel specializes in the export of iron ore, and Point Sam, the Sherbro River terminal, handles bauxite and rutile. Bonthe and Sulima are other ports. Sierra Leone has many rivers, however, some are navigable only over short distances for about three months of the year, during the rainy season. Of the 800 km (497 mi) of waterways, 600 km (373 mi) are navigable year round.

In 2001 there were an estimated 10 airports, only 1 of which had a paved runway. An international airport at Lungi is connected by ferry to Freetown, across the bay. Extension of the runway was completed in 1968, bringing the airport to top-class international airport standard. It is served by about a dozen international airlines with regular flights to Europe, North and South America, and the rest of West Africa. Domestic service operates from Hastings Airfield, 22 km (14 mi) from Freetown, linking the capital to nearly all the large provincial towns.

The national air carrier, founded in 1961 as Sierra Leone Airways, was reconstituted in 1982 as Sierra Leone Airlines, under the management of Alia-Royal Jordanian Airline, which holds a 20% share. In 2001, 13,900 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international flights.

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