The $550 million Mauritius Metro Express project phase four sponsored by India is expected to be completed by the end of 2024.
Mauritius new light rail transit (LRT) system is one of the most complex national infrastructure developments ever undertaken in the country.
The project, which began in 2017, has been moving at a rapid pace, with building contracts handed to Larsen & Toubro, an Indian infrastructure juggernaut.
The Metro Express marks the first investment in train travel since the old lines were closed in the 1960s in Mauritius.
The metro's funding comes from a combination of grants and a Line of Credit supplied by India, reports Mint.
The project's 3-4-km-long third phase, which connects Rose-Hill to Reduit, was completed and inaugurated in January 2023.
The 10 to 15-km-long Phase 4, which will extend the line from Reduit to Cote d'Or, is set to begin soon and will be completed in late 2024.
According to K Nandini Singla, India's High Commissioner to Mauritius, the extension of the Metro Express from Reduit to Cote d'Or will be supported by a USD 25 million grant and a USD 300 million line of credit from India.
Nearly 14 million Mauritians have ridden the metro, with daily traffic topping 45,000. Rail India Technical and Economic Service (RITES) have also contributed consulting services to the project, stated Singla.
Apart from the Metro Express line, the Indian government also funded the new Supreme Court, the new ENT Hospital, the Civil Service College, the new Forensic Science Laboratory, and a large number of social housing units.
India's Railway Diplomacy
India is assisting railway infrastructure projects in West Asia, Southeast Asia, and Africa in order to increase investment and trade and build a name for India in global affairs. As of 2018, India had pledged US $24.2 billion in soft loans to over 60 countries during a 14-year period.
The majority of India's railway projects in other nations are completed by Indian Railways' subsidiary businesses, Rail India Technical and Economic Service (RITES) and Indian Railway Construction (IRCON).
RITES is involved in the exports of locomotives and coaches, amongst others. It operates in 55 countries, including Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Mozambique, Ethiopia, and other African nations. At the same time, IRCON operates in 21 countries, including India’s neighbours like Iraq, Malaysia, Brazil, the UK, Algeria, and many other African nations, where it has carried out rail line laying, modernisation of tracks, etc, according to Centre for Public Policy Research.
The metro, India's first in Africa, demonstrates New Delhi's commitment to boosting economic development and connectivity in strategically located island nations like Mauritius, as part of the Indian Ocean policy.
Similar 'railway diplomacy' has been conducted by India in Mozambique. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar rode in a train purchased by Mozambique via an Indian-funded Line of Credit (LoC) during his recent visit to the country in April.
The development also coincides with heightened naval and economic competition with China as New Delhi and Beijing compete for regional influence. China and Mauritius inked a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in 2019, which some hailed as a significant step forward for Beijing's Indian Ocean policy.
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