Uganda has committed to fast track the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) so as to harmonise with Kenya, which has already constructed a part of the railway life.
This was arrived at during the SGR cluster meeting in Kampala on Wednesday that was attended by representatives from partner states; South Sudan, Rwanda, Kenya, and Uganda.
Mr. Benon Kajuna, the Director for Transport at the Ministry of Works and Transport for Uganda, told the meeting that the objective is constructing the SGR from Mombasa to all the partner states.
“SGR now has been constructed from the port of Mombasa up to Naivasha in Kenya. Preparations are in high gear for the construction from Naivasha – Kisumu – Malaba. Preparations are in high gear for the construction of Malaba – Kampala,” Kajuna said.
Adding“And of course, thereafter, we are also constructing from Kampala – Kasese, linking up to Rwanda – Kasese linking up to DRC,” he added.
Kajuna said the third phase for Uganda will be Tororo – Gulu linking up Nimule, “so that South Sudan can be able to start off constructing up to Juba and from Gulu linking up again to DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo).”
Kajuna said soon, Uganda shall be signing a contract with Yapi Engineering Ltd, who are going to construct the SGR for Uganda from Malaba up to Kampala phase one and then proceed to phase two linking up to Kasese and also South of the Uganda border
“The financiers are actually very pleased. When they know that Kenya is moving to Malaba and Uganda is moving Malaba – Kampala. And it would be easy to pull these lines into Sudan and into Rwanda and DRC,” he noted.
Eng. Perez Wamburu, the SGR Project Coordinator, said UK Export Finance will finance the project, “and we hope to start construction soon after we have done the evaluation of the bid, possibly in September.”
“We signed a contract with a Chinese firm in 2016. The condition was that they were going to finance the project and then do the construction. Seven years down the road, the financing was not forthcoming. That is what caused us to move in that direction,” Eng. Wamburu said.
He added that the government has paid over Shs100 billion in compensation to people along the railway line.
“To show you the seriousness of what the government has taken, we have already acquired a corridor, Malaba – Kampala is supposed to be 270Km, but we have already acquired over 120 kilometers,” he said.
Dr Duncan Hunda, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Transport echoed the popular view that railway transport remains the cheapest mode of transport for cargo over long distances and must be embraced.