November 5,2018 – Almost a year since taking over operations of its network from Rift Valley Railways, Uganda Railways Corporation URC, has seen cargo carried between Mombasa and Kampala on its metre-gauge rail rise to 20,000 tons per month on average.
Managing Director Charles Kateba says he is working to grow cargo volumes by 25pc by December, which would push average monthly volume to 35,000 tons.
“The real challenge we have had has been operational but that is being resolved as Kenya Railways repairs sections of the line to reduce the incidence of derailments. The cost of fuel has also been a major challenge because of the road levy on diesel,” he told 256BN.
Once ballast has been added to reinforce weak sections, Kateba expects monthly freight to increase to 60,000 tons by June 2019.
Under the concession to Rift Valley Railways which is now the subject of arbitration, Uganda handed over 1200 units of rolling stock to the concession. Although these have been recovered, only 700 are in working condition while 500 remain grounded in Kenya.
Although the start of SGR operations between Mombasa and Nairobi was initially seen as a threat to the metre gauge, Kateba says both asset holders are committed to keeping the line open.
“We have seen a surge on contract cargo foe the metre gauge across both networks. Kenya cannot shut it down because of Magadi Soda and rail access to areas such as Nakuru and Eldoret, which for now are not served by SGR,” he explained.
Uganda has also secured an Euro 24.5 million line of credit from the World Bank to help refurbish the northern line running from Tororo to Pakwach. The light line built in the 1960’s was constructed without ballast, limiting its carrying capacity. The money will be used to add ballast to the line, replace slippers and and repair bridges and culverts. Once complete, the line will offer a seamless link for South Sudan bound cargo from Mombasa to Gulu in northern Uganda. It will also relieve shippers like the edible oil industry based around Lira.