Rift Valley Railways (RVR), the concessionaire managing the Uganda-Kenya railways, is set to start passenger services on a pilot scale between the city centre and Namanve, one of Kampala's busiest routes on Jinja road.
Sammy Gachuhi, general manager concession, announced on Wednesday that five RVR coaches would hit the route soon after government formalised the contract mandating them to operate passenger services in the country. Gachuhi explained that in the initial concession, signed in 2005, there were no agreements on RVR operating passenger services in Uganda.
He said RVR seeks to iron out finer details for the operation to take off. The meeting between RVR and government officials is set for September 19, in Kampala.
"We'll run this route as a pilot project and plan to add on Kampala-Nalukolongo later," Gachuhi disclosed during a media workshop at Kampala Serena hotel.
"Our charges will be much cheaper compared to what city commuters pay on other means of transport," he added.
Each of RVR's five available coaches has a total capacity (both sitting and standing) of 100 passengers. In March 2012, RVR tested the coaches by transporting passengers to Namboole stadium and Namanve during staff strikes of the defunct Pioneers Bus Services.
For a return journey, then, RVR charged Shs 1,500 per passenger. Currently, taxis charge as much as Shs 2,000 for a one-way trip to Namanve. If the planned RVR coaches start plying the route, they will come in handy for city commuters from Kireka, Banda, Nakawa and those working in Industrial area along Kampala Meat Parkers.
Meanwhile, RVR has completed the first phase of repairs on its Tororo-Pakwach line, which is expected to boost trade in northern Uganda and facilitate oil transportation from the Albertine region. According to government plans, Uganda should start full oil production and export by 2017. And it's against this background that RVR, one of the major stakeholders, wants to cash in on the oil production operations boom.
The line, on which RVR has already spent up to $1.9m (approximately Shs 5bn) in rail repairs, clearing bushes and installing new culverts, opened this month with a major cargo delivery destined for South Sudan.
Gachihu said the South Sudan-bound consignment was flagged off last week from the Kenyan port of Mombasa. Cosma Gatere, RVR's director of external affairs, said they would spend an additional $15m (Shs 39bn) on improving the line over the next two years to make it ready for oil exports. Experts estimate Uganda's commercial oil production to be 3.5 billion barrels.