Kampala — Following Kenya's decision to sign a deal with China to construct a standard gauge railway line between Mombasa and Malaba, Uganda has followed suit and is in advanced stages of inking a deal to stretch the line all the way into Kampala.
According to Eng. Abraham Byandala, the Works and Transport Minister it would only make sense to stretch the standard gauge into Uganda so as to enable smooth transportation of bulk goods between the two countries.
He said, "If Kenya builds and we do not build, we would not benefit because our rails would not be able to handle the type of locomotives coming from there."
Byandala also said that the contract signed between Uganda and Kenya was one that would help the two countries seamlessly move cargo at a faster speed and reduce the turn-around times.
"We have agreed to work together in the development of this standard gauge railway from Mombasa to Kampala then to Kasese. We are trying to work in tandem so that we move together," he said.
The poorly developed railway infrastructure has been pointed out as one of the barriers to trade that has increased the cost of doing business as traders resort to the expensive road transport.
Dr. Maggie Kigozi, the former Executive Director of the Uganda Investment Authority in an interview with the East African Business Week in Kampala last week also faulted the poor railway and road infrastructure as a barrier to investment in the country.
She said, "It becomes extremely difficult and expensive for those who export their finished products and those manufacturers importing raw materials as they resort to roads which are also in poor condition."
Abraham Byandala also disclosed that the Ministry had already embarked on the process of reconstructing the Malaba-Kampala railway line having contracted two companies and was in the process of signing a deal with another contractor whom he didn't name to work on the Tororo-Pakwach-Gulu up to Nimule on the border with South Sudan.
He also added that the Ministry had also engaged a South African company to look into the Kampala - Kasese line.
He however said that the agreements between the two countries do not affect the concession that the two countries have with the Rift Valley Railways (RVR).
"The concession was written in such a way that right from the word go, they (RVR) agreed that we can continue or we can start constructing a standard gauge line as they are operating.
So it is not going to affect the operations of RVR. RVR is aware and they also want to participate in the construction of our railway," Byandala said.
By press time, RVR was yet to comment on the issue.