The first railway on the island of Mauritius opened in 1864 between Port Louis and Grand River South East, a distance of some 50km. By the early decades of the 20th century a network of approaching 200km of standard gauge line had been established, fed by many more km of narrow gauge plantation railways. The predominant traffic of the railways was sugar cane, but they were also very important to general communications on the island, enabling easy movement of passengers and general freight.
Following the Second World War traffic declined in the face of road competition and passenger services ceased in 1956. Further competition and decline in sugar cane production led to complete closure in 1964. Lines were closed and lifted and although routes may still be traced, few tangible artefacts remain today. Narrow gauge railways fared rather better in this respect, and although most of them closed about the same time, a number of locomotives and other items are now on static display in various locations.
In 2019, the first 13km section of a new light rail transit system opened, connecting the capital, Port Louis, with the town of Rose Hill. A further 2.5km section from Rose Hill to Quatre Bornes opened in spring, 2021, and a final 10.5km from Quatre Bornes to Curepipe in autumn, 2022. For much of its length, the route of the new line follows that of the former Mauritius Government Railways’ Midland Line. A 3.4km branch from Rose Hill to Ébène and Réduit is planned, with construction expected to start in 2023.
© 2005-2022 Glyn Williams
Photo image by Stephen Spark