The Momase Trans-National Railway: PNG’s Future Transportation
The coming of the railway to PNG – is it a realistic dream or merely a fleeting fantasy?
If today’s Post-Courier editorial and article is anything to go by, it is a realistic dream – and a bloody good one too. Because I am such a believer in the establishment of a railway in PNG, I would like to announce for the record, that I already have a name for it: the Momase Trans-National Railway (MTNR).
It’s heartening to see that the force pushing for the realisation of conducting a feasibility study into the notion of building a railway line from Lae (Morobe) to Vanimo (West Sepik) is a combined effort from the respective Governors of the Momase Region.
Speaking on the Governors’ intention on challenging the Government to provide K350,000 (AU$200,000) to carry out studies on the feasibility of the proposal, chairman of the 11th Momase Regional Governor’s Conference and Morobe Governor Luther Wenge said:
“This railway has been raised by this conference since 2006 as the conference sees that the geographical landscape of the Momase region would allow a reliable railway system to be built. When this railway is built, we will only have feeder roads linking up to the main railway. This means, movement of cargos and freight goods will be confined at these locations“.
There have been previous attempts at building railways in PNG but on much smaller proportions. The Germans built a number of plantation railways in Rabaul and Madang and you can still see remnants of a railway as you walk around Lae Top-Town. Michael Pearson, now the Chairman of the Teaching Commission, co-authored the 1997 book End of the Line: A History of Railways in Papua New Guinea. You can read it online here.
There are MASSIVE benefits for PNG as a nation to establish and maintain a railway in the Momase Region connecting Lae, Madang, Wewak and Vanimo.
Here are some of the advantages I identified:
- The utilization of local raw materials as much as possible
- Increase in the traffic of goods and passengers around PNG
- Retaining the top rating of important commercial centres Lae, Madang, and Vanimo as key commodity-trading points in PNG to Asia, the Pacific, and Australia
- Provide cheaper freight and competitive freight options for the growing commercial bases of Vanimo, Wewak and Madang
- Boost regional development and support the growing agribusiness developments in the Ramu and Markham Valleys
- Support mineral exploration along the railway corridor by providing a cheaper transport option for high bulk freight
- Boost employment and training opportunities: hundreds of direct jobs will be created during the construction of the railway and many more in a flow-on effect to service and supply areas
- Boost the local industries of the surrounding villages
- Bring new capabilities into West and East Sepik
- Support PNG Defence needs, by providing a means of moving troops and equipment (this would have been invaluable during the Indonesian incursion into PNG). It will also allow for future large defence movements to training grounds around the Momase Region.
- Reduction of road accidents along the Madang Highway
Leaders of PNG are regularly criticised for having a lack of vision for our country. This proposal is nothing more than visionary and I truly do hope that Government does commit to the K350,000 the Momase Governors are asking for as it is definitely worth the investment.
If the railway does go ahead, one concern I do have is the Momase people’s respect for the railway as a vital service and as being owned by the collective – that is the Nation. Just imagine what would happen if landowners decided to block the railway to voice concerns about their dissatisfaction with either royalties, claims for compensation, and/or the possible problems passengers may instigate? It would be utter chaos.
On the bright side, I smell KINA – lots and lots of it. Money will be made here so don’t stand around and watch the opportunity roll on by. You have been warned : )