Ugandan government approves $US 376m for Malaba – Kampala railway
THE Ugandan government has approved a Shillings 1.4 trillion ($US 376m) investment to reconstruct the 215km Malaba – Kampala railway, with the intention of improving freight connections between the capital city and Uganda’s eastern border with Kenya. An additional investment of Shillings 48bn has been approved to purchase eight locomotives for the line, and a further Shillings 9.5bn for routine repairs across the network.
The investment is part of the ambitious Uganda Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project, which aims to redevelop the country’s dilapidated 1,266km, 1000mm-gauge network to standard gauge.
In addition, the project will be partially financed with a €21.1m ($US 23.7m) grant from the European Union, with the Ugandan government seeking further investment from international finance institutions.
Additional funding had also been sought from China, however due to economic concerns which included Uganda’s delayed oil production, no investment was agreed.
The SGR network will eventually reach 1,724km, both redeveloped and reconstructed, and will be built in four planned sections:
- Malaba – Kampala,
- Kampala – Mpondwe
- Tororo – Gulu, and
- Bihanga – Mirama Hills.
Construction of the Tororo – Gulu section has been contracted to Vinci Group subsidiaries Sogea Satom and ETF. The French consortium will replace the entirety of the 375km section, including the production and installation of 200,000m3 of ballast and the replacement or repair of sleepers, rails and fastenings.
The investment has been given additional impetus due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has drawn attention to the need for the rail network to be fully operational for freight. There are concerns that the large numbers of drivers currently required for road freight transport may increase risks of cross-border transmission, and shipping has slowed significantly due to current border restrictions, with border crossings dropping from 300 to 100 a day. Consequently, shipping times between Mombasa port and the Ugandan capital of Kampala have more than doubled, and the cost of goods has risen by up to 40%.
The government hopes that the investment in the country’s railways will allow for more efficient, cost-effective alternatives to congested road transport. It is also hoped that the railway will reduce cross-border road traffic and help to limit the transmission of any future pandemics.