Rail transport is one of the oldest means of transport still available in Madagascar. According to its history, the first rails were deposited in 1901 in Anivorano, which is located 15 km from the city of Brickaville, in the eastern part of Madagascar. This first railway “Antananarivo-Brickaville” was officially inaugurated in April 1909. This event marked a great evolution for the world of transport in the Big Island, since these times, more precisely six years after the entry of the French Colonization in Madagascar in 1895, construction began. Then, under the governance of the Brigadier General Joseph Simon Galliéni, Malagasy people were subjected to “forced labor” (a form of slavery during those times) to build the railway that connects the capital Antananarivo to the eastern part, it was called “Tananarive – East Coast” or “TEC”, which was inaugurated in 1913.
The evolution continues gradually to other regions, in 1915 the city of Moramanga is connected to the Lac Alaotra region by the line “Moramanga – Lac Alaotra” or “MLA”. Subsequently, the Lac Alaotra region was connected with the city of Ambatondrazaka in 1922. And just a year later, the one that connects the capital to the city of Antsirabe was inaugurated; it is the line “Tananarive – Antsirabe” or “TA”. And the last railway line that was built is that connecting the city of Fianarantsoa to Manakara, called “Fianarantsoa – Côte Est” or “FCE”, and was in use from 1936.
Around 1944, a company was created to manage the rail transport sector; it was named « Régie Générale des Chemins de Fer d’Outre-Mer » (RGCFOM) (General Board of Overseas Railways). The latter evolved over time and became « Réseau National des Chemins de Fer Malgache » (RNCFM) (National Network of Malagasy Railways) in 1982. But due to lack of maintenance and budget, the state decides to privatize the company. Indeed, it was baptized “Madarail” or “Madagascar Railways” in 2002.
Before, trains served as an affordable means of transportation for the majority of the population and also for goods in general. But during the 1990s, they were preceded by bush taxis because the construction of national roads evolved. And today, these railways are more used in the field of tourism, especially for the TCE because the landscape is really attractive. Madarail provides two wagons specifically dedicated to tourists and/or family trips: “The Trans lemurie express” and “The Micheline”. Only the FCE continues its activity of transporting the population and goods. But this does not prevent tourists from mixing a little with the bush while enjoying the daily life of the Malagasy population.
Since the first set-up, the Malagasy trains and railways have not evolved, hence the ironical name of Soarano station “Small speed” in contrast with today’s High Speed Trains.
The prospect is large and ambitious for the rail transport sector in Madagascar, because the northern, southern and western parts of Madagascar do not yet have railways while they still have large spaces compatible for the realization of massive infrastructure like railways. But it is necessary and sufficient that the will of the State, supported by a national development policy be greatly established.