By John Odyek
Uganda is set to transport more cargo by rail as the capacity to convey heavy cargo has been developed. Twenty rail wagons have been imported from the US to increase heavy cargo movement between the port of Mombasa and Kampala.
Rift Valley Railway (RVR), the company that operates the Kenya- Uganda railway, has begun carrying heavy steel products to be used for manufacturing iron sheets.
Maryanne Wachira, the head of RVR’s steel division, said one train load can deliver 1,000 tonnes of heavy steel coils, the equivalent of what 50 trucks can deliver loading 20 tonnes each.
Wachira was speaking at the launch of the RVR railway link to Roofings Rolling Mills at the Kampala Industrial and Business Park in Namanve last week.
“In developed countries steel is transported on rail, but in Africa it is not happening because of infrastructure challenges. What we have launched removes 300 truckloads of steel off Ugandan roads per month,” Wachira explained.
Over 95% of the goods that are imported into or exported out of Uganda pass through the port of Mombasa. They use the Northern Transport Corridor (Mombasa to Kampala), but 90% of the cargo on the route travels by road and only 10% moves by rail, according to the World Bank.
Mark Rumanyika, the RVR general manager Western route, said ferrying high volumes of steel by rail has multiple social and economic benefits, including easing traffic congestion and saving roads from degradation.
Rumanyika added that the newly-acquired electric locomotives will increase rail carriage on the 1,300km journey between Mombasa and Kampala. He said the company has also rehabilitated 330 wagons with the support of the German government development organisation, KFW.
Rumanyika said the railway tracks between Nairobi and Kam - pala have been rehabilitated and nine new culverts have been installed between Jinja and Busembatia to ease the transportation of cargo.
Oliver Lalani, the Roofings Group executive director, said rail transport will enable them import larger quantities of steel and improve their efficiency and output.
“With the heavier steel coils you enjoy higher yield productivity and less scrap percentage. It will benefit Uganda’s construction industry.”