By Darious Magara
The East African business community, especially landlocked Uganda, await the rehabilitation of the railway line that is expected to reduce the cost of doing business and make the region more competitive.
State minister for works and transport John Byabagambi last week said the Government is determined to invest in the railway transport sector and intends to revamp it.
He noted that the Government privatised the railway so that it is run more efficiently and effectively by the private sector, which sometimes runs business better than the Government.
“We have encountered some challenges related with privatising the railways but they can always be ironed out,” he added.
Byabagambi said the Government is happy with the completion of the Tororo-Pakwach railway line to be opened this month.
He noted that a well-functioning railway sector can spur growth and regional economic integration.
Last week the four presidents of East Africa announced that the construction of Mombasa-Nairobi railway line segment would commence in November this year.
If implemented, the entire Mombasa-Kampala-Kigali link will be completed by March 2018.
The new time line was announced by the presidents of Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and South Sudan, although sources of funding for the project were not clear.
Meanwhile, the Rift Valley Railways (RVR), the company that got the 25-year concession to manage the railway network in Kenya and Uganda, has invested $42m in refurbishing the railway infrastructure in the two countries.
The RVR general manager western, Mark Rumanyika, last week said they had paid about $53m as concession fees to the governments of Uganda and Kenya.
He also said RVR currently operates a total of 2,541.44km of railway track linking the shores of the Indian Ocean to the Kenyan highlands and Kampala.
The company signed its concession agreements with the two governments in 2006, but made significant implementation of their contractual agreements starting 2010 after a change in the ownership of the company to the Citadel, Transcentury and Bomi Holdings.
“We have made several tangible achievements, including the completion of the rehabilitation of Mombasa-Nairobi railway line,” Rumanyika noted.
The works involved complete replacement of 73km of railway track between Mombasa and Nairobi at an investment cost of about sh51b (about $20m).
Rumanyika said their request to the ministry of works to operate a passenger transport service between Kampala and Mukono is still being considered.
“We have five passenger coaches which can serve the people and reduce traffic jam as well as generate revenue for the company,” he said.
“We find it regrettable that the coaches are idle.”