In a move aimed at fast-tracking the implementation of the construction of a standard gauge railway among three East African member states of Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda yesterday signed a consultancy services contract for the preliminary engineering design of the Kigali-Kampala standard gauge railway.
The contract is in line with a recent decision by Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya and to enter a tripartite arrangement to fast-track integration projects.
The proposed standard gauge railway, which will link Nairobi, Kigali, Kampala and Juba in South Sudan is set to be completed in March 2018.
Speaking shortly after the signing of the contract in Kampala yesterday, the director general of Rwanda Transport Development Agency (RTDA), Guy Kalisa said that Rwanda and Uganda will share the €6.3 million (Frw 5.8 billion) cost of the designs of the railway, adding that Rwanda will pay €1.4 million, while Uganda will cater for the rest.
"This is another demonstration of the strong commitment and political will of our leaders for joint regional integration projects aimed at promoting regional trade and free movement of people and goods," Kalisa said.
He added that they are still at the phase of the designs saying that they will know the total cost of engineering and procurement after the consultants have given their advice on the routes and alignment from Kagitumba to Kigali.
Following a bidding process, a German consulting firm, Gauff Ingenieure, was awarded the contract that will see the electronic railway line linked from Bihanga in western Uganda to Kagitumba and Kigali.
Need for professional work:
According to the contract, the consultants will mainly work on reducing sharp corners from Kagitumba as well as focusing on straight alignments to enable an efficient and faster system.
Uganda's State Minister for Transport John Byabagambi called on the consultants to work diligently in order for their services to be completed within one year.
"The improved railway services will invariably occasion a drastic freight model shift from road to rail," Minister Byabagambi said.
The railway will replace the existing 100-year old one (Kenya-Uganda) and will enable the operation of longer, heavier and faster trains.
The Nairobi-Kigali standard gauge railway is estimated to cost around $13.5 billion and its construction will be financed jointly among the three countries.
Experts say the railway line will have the capacity to ferry cargo at speed of up 80 kilometers per hour, which will significantly reduce transportation costs which is one of the major challenges to doing business within the region.
The majority of traders currently rely on trucks to transport their goods which presents challenges especially trade barriers like roadblocks, weighbridges, delays at borders in clearing process as well as corruption.
Kenya commissioned the construction of a railway network from Mombasa to Nairobi last year.
The director of Gauff Ingenieure, Michel Fest said that their biggest challenge is completing the services on time but vowed that they will do all it costs to finish it in the agreed timeframe.