Arusha — A vast network of additional railway lines within East Africa and others linking the region to neighbouring Ethiopia, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo is on the cards.
Under the master plan, Uganda would have four new lines connecting to South Sudan, DRC and Tanzania. These are Kasese-Kisangani, Gulu-Nimule- Juba, Masaka-Biharamulo and Pakwach-Juba-Wau.
Consultants have been commissioned by the East African Community Secretariat to study the possibility of constructing 15 new lines under the EAC Railways Development Master Plan.
Mr Magaga Alot, the spokesperson for the EAC, said the additional railway sections were approved by the recent EAC Council of Ministers meeting for consideration by the consultants. The ministers, he added, directed the Secretariat to expedite the procurement process for the consultants to enable the Railways Development Master Plan to be finalised within the contracted timeframe.
Burundi and Rwanda, which joined the regional bloc on July 1, have been urged to provide relevant information to the Master Plan Study consultants to speed up the work. Already, the Tanzania and Rwandan governments have confirmed that a railway line would be built to link the Isaka Inland Port in Shinyanga region and the Rwandese capital, Kigali. The proposed line is included in the master plan.
Tanzania would be the main beneficiary of the new railway lines should the ambitious project materialise. Besides the Isaka-Kigali line, eight other new railway lines have been proposed within the country, linking Tanzania with other states. These are Liganga-Mchuchuma, Mchuchuma-Mbamba Bay, Liganga-Mlimba, Dar es Salaam- Mtwara, Biharamulo-Masaka (via Bukoba), Tunduma-Kigoma (through Sumbawanga and Mpanda),Uvinza-Bujumbura and Bagamoyo-Kidomole.
Kenya would have two railway branches connecting it to its closest Horn of Africa neighbours--Ethiopia and Sudan--according to Mr Alot. The three countries, together with others, are members of Igad (Intergovernmental Authority on Development), formed in the 1980s mainly to fight the impacts of droughts and other natural disasters often afflicting the area. One of the proposed railway lines will connect Garissa town with the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, while another will be constructed from Lamu to Juba in south Sudan via Garissa.
The EAC Master Plan was one of the infrastructure development projects discussed in last week's high level meetings attended by senior officials from the five partner states and development partners. Currently, East Africa has three major railway networks, two of which were constructed during the colonial period.
These are the vast railway system under the Tanzania Railways Corporation, the Tanzania-Zambia Railway (Tazara), and the Kenya-Uganda railway from Mombasa to western Uganda.