Uganda western railway line set to re-open

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Kampala, Uganda - Thirteen years since then Uganda Railways Corporation (URC)  ceased operations on Uganda’s western railway line due to commercial and technical reasons, plans are again underway to revamp them.
As part of its strategy to improve railway transportation, the Uganda government is to re-open the  railway lines including the Kampala-Kasese line.
Through its Ministry of Works and Transport, the government is seeking services of a suitably qualified consulting firm to carry out and complete the assignment.  
An interim report submitted to Government by Technofin Consultants pvt in conjunction with International Development Consultants, shows that there is need to revamp the line following the economic activities that are taking place in the western part of the country.
Cement production at Hima, and limestone mining at Dura River, the dominant economic activity  at the Western end of the Kampala-Kasese railway line need bulk transportation.
Hima cement expected to step up its production from 300,000 tonnes per annum to 960,000 tones per annum in 2011, currently transports its cement by road to its markets, the principle being Kampala.
Limestone, a major input in the production for the cement plant, is transported by trucks, a distance of  80 km to Hima.
The recent discovery of commercial oil deposits in western Uganda has given rise to increased economic activity and dire need for a railway transport.
The line is also expected to further ease transit traffic from the Indian Ocean port of Mombasa through Uganda to Rwanda, Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Uganda accounts for 70% of transit traffic through the northern corridor route of Mombasa port.
The Team Leader International Development Consultants, Mr Alex Macdonald, says three rehabilitation options have been defined. They include upgrade to standard gauge and minimum rehabilitation.  
Macdonald said while positive impact expected will include improved transport facilities at reduced cost, increased economic activity and investment in agro-processing, negative impact of the construction will include disruption to persons required to move for the railway works.
In order to increase efficiency and service delivery, the government of Uganda and Kenya signed a joint concession to manage their railways in 2006. However, the Kasese line was not part of the concession.
Rift Valley Railways (RVR) General Manager, Mr James Nyambari, says plans are also underway for the revival of passenger town service transport.
The move is expected to considerably ease transportation costs, congestion and horrific traffic jams in the city.
The Kampala-Kasese railway line is a 208 mile (333km) metre-gauge railway line that starts at Kampala and ends at Kasese near Uganda's border with the DRC.
The line was constructed during 1952-1956 primarily to transport copper ore from the Kilembe mines to the refinery at Jinja.
To minimize costs, it was constructed with second-hand light weight rails, mainly light 30- year old track material lifted from Kenya and Tanzania.
At its peak in 1973, the Kampala-Kasese  railway line handled 50.000 tonnes of goods traffic. From 1973 peak, traffic volumes fell to 30,000 tonnes in1991.
By 1997, the total traffic had risen to 70,000 tonnes of which 95% was cement.
The deteriorating condition of the line, the resultant safety issues and the failure of low revenues to cover operational costs, fed on each other forcing URC to suspend operations in 1998.
Since then, more than 50% of the track sleepers have been stolen, and  buildings and other equipment have been deteriorated or vandalized.
It is anticipated that even a minimum rehabilitation of the line would require laying of almost a complete new railway.

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Last Updated ( Monday, 02 May 2011 07:00 )  

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