Guyana mulls railway system along EBD, ECD

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
Rockstone River Terminus of the Demerara Essequibo Railway on the Essequibo River

Cognisant of the growth of Guyana’s economy and the need for timely transportation of goods and people, President Dr Irfaan Ali has revealed that a railway system in Guyana is being examined at a technical level.

During a press conference on Tuesday to mark his return from leading a Guyanese delegation that included members of the local private sector to India, President Ali was asked about his Administration’s plan for a railway.

The President acknowledged that in theory, a railway makes sense considering the population density along the East Bank.

But while a railway is being considered, he noted that a lot of technical work has to be done before it can be deemed feasible.

“The transit system is something we have been discussing at a technical level. From a planning perspective, if you look at the population density from Grove on the East Bank, to maybe Nabaclis and the movement of people along that corridor, one might easily say that a railway system is easily justifiable.”

“But while these things are in the early stage of examination, there’s no decision on that as yet. I would say to you it’s not outside our thinking horizon. It is something that from a planning perspective, we’re examining. And any decision will have to be based on a full-fledged study to justify such an investment,” the President also said.

At one time, Guyana had active railways, one from Demerara to Berbice and the other from Demerara to Essequibo. However, both came to an end in the 1970s.

There are a number of infrastructural projects ongoing that will link the East Coast of Demerara (ECD) with the East Bank. Foremost among them is the Ogle to Eccles roadway. A US$106.4 million contract was signed last year with Indian company Ashoka Buildcon, to construct this four-lane road.

It was announced in January 2022 that Ashoka Buildcon Limited won the contract to construct the road, ahead of two other Indian companies. Ashoka has previously built a number of bridges and roads.

According to the company’s website, it even built a bridge in 38 days, namely the Mandve Bridge near Pandharpur, India. According to the company, the bridge was supposed to be built in 12 months.

In February 2021, the Government of India approved the new scope of works for the redesigned bypass road project that would link the ECD at Ogle to Haags Bosch in Eccles, on the East Bank of Demerara (EBD).

The Diamond-Ogle bypass project will see the construction of some 26 kilometres of road linking two of the country’s main thoroughfares. This new road link will also be connected to key communities in Georgetown and along the East Bank of Demerara.

RITES Limited, an engineering consultancy company based in India, had undertaken a 10-month design consultancy, which produced a Detailed Project Report (DPR) outlining the draft final design of the bypass road. It is this report which recommended a four-lane highway as most feasible.

Back in 2015, the Indian Government had provided a US$50 million Line of Credit (LOC) for the road link that was initially slated for Ogle to Diamond, East Bank Demerara (EBD). However, the project cost was driven up to over $208 million by the previous A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government and the project languished under them.

However, when the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government took office in 2020, it redesigned the project into two phases to fit the LOC – first from Ogle to Haags Bosch road, which is about 48-50 per cent of the project, and then from Haags Bosch to Diamond – in order to fit the US$50 million LOC.

Because of these changes in the scope of the project, additional approvals were required from New Delhi, and after several months, this was obtained.