Uganda is forging ahead with the construction of a railway line to restore a British-era railway system, after failing to secure funding from China for a new standard gauge railway (SGR).
The country believes that the restored railway line will significantly reduce the cost of shipping goods to the northern part of the country, as well as to South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
The decision to restore the old railway line came after Uganda terminated its contract with China Harbour and Engineering Company Ltd earlier this year. The contract was for the construction of a $2.2 billion SGR. Without the financial support from China, Uganda was left with no other option but to seek alternative solutions.
According to John Linnon Sengendo, the spokesperson for the state-run Uganda Railways Corporation, the country’s goal is to shift all long-distance bulk cargo transportation from roads to rail in the coming years. This is because rail transportation is more cost-effective and time-efficient.
The railway line that is being restored is part of the East Africa rail network, which extends from Mombasa, Kenya’s seaport. Constructed during the British colonial era in the early 20th century, the line has been out of use for nearly four decades.
To finance the restoration project, the Ugandan government is providing 200 billion shillings ($55.48 million) to China Road and Bridge Corporation. The restoration is expected to be completed within the next two years.
Once restored, the railway line will connect the town of Tororo in the eastern part of Uganda, near the Kenyan border, with the town of Gulu in the northern region, near the South Sudan border.
This initiative by Uganda showcases a determination to pursue its infrastructure development goals, even in the face of setbacks. By taking matters into their own hands, Uganda hopes to benefit from an efficient railway system that will enable the cost-effective transportation of goods not only within the country but also to neighbouring nations.
Ugandan authorities are optimistic that the revived rail line will serve as a viable alternative to the transportation of goods by trucks to South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
This development comes in the wake of another significant undertaking, which involves constructing a standard gauge railway connecting Naivasha in Kenya and Uganda’s capital city, Kampala. The announcement was made recently by the transportation ministers of both nations.