23 February 2018

Uganda: Passenger Train Services to Resume On Monday

Photo: Stephen Otage/Daily Monitor
The passenger train that is set to resume operations next week.

Passenger train services are set to resume, two months after government terminated its contract with Rift Valley Railway (RVR).

Mr Charles Kateeba, the managing director of Uganda Railways Corporation (URC), said all assets and operations of the train have since reverted to URC and government takes over the operations of the trains within the city.

"The services will be better because all operations will be under one management. The additional costs that the service was incurring because we had a contractor, RVR, will be removed and expenditure will reduce. The services will resume next week." Mr Kateeba said. He explained that they are currently carrying out trials to avoid any mechanical encumbrances.

The sources

The train, Mr Kateeba said, will ply the Kampala-Kyengera route twice a day, adding that they anticipate cargo services when the Uganda-Kenya railway route is completed.

"We shall soon have door to door services where we shall be picking cargo from different plants to Mombasa. Some of the plants which had ceased operating have since been restored for instance in Jinja and Tororo. The other major thing is that we want to improve our import to export ratio," he said.

Although government had earlier noted that the train would start plying the Nalukolongo-Kyengera route and Luzira-Port Bell, Mr Kateeba said trials are still underway for the routes to become operational.

"We just need three wagons for passengers on Kampala-Port Bell line to start. Very soon we shall start trials on that line, preferably mid this year. However, funds haven't been allocated to repair these routes. But we are hopeful that they might be in the next financial year," he said.

Asked about the relocation of people who are currently occupying the railway reserve, he noted that government is handling the matter.

Past woes

Last month, government terminated the contract for Rift Valley Railways, a private company that had been contracted to manage the facilitation on grounds that it had breached all the conditional concession demands as per their agreement.

According to the January 25 termination letter from Finance Minister Matia Kasaija to the RVR executives, they had failed to pay staff salaries on time and avail an insurance policy to determine whether the insurance coverage meets the conditions set in the concession agreement.

Others are, failure to guarantee a performance bond, failure to submit audit and annual reports for the last three years, and to put in place security to protect the railway assets.

Ministry of Finance threw out RVR from management of the metre gauge railway line and instructed URC to take charge of the facility.

The government resolved to end all ongoing discussions to salvage RVR's concession. The government first terminated the concession in October last year, which prompted RVR to seek legal redress.

Welcome development

The resumption comes on the heels of uproar from the members of the public who were traveling by train to and from work before its operations were shut by government to resolve the management wrangles that had plagued the entire massive transport project.

"Ever since the train stopped operating, I have been affected by the traffic jam. Initially, I would board once from Namanve to town without stopping on the way unlike the now where I have to move by taxi. Now that they have resumed operations, that's good news," said Mr Noah Wakandya, a tailor in Kiyembe.

Currently, there is heavy traffic jam in the city, affecting most of the businesses. Mr Peter Kaujju, the KCCA director of public and corporate affairs welcomed the idea, saying that the passenger train services will help in reducing congestion.

Daily Monitor has also learnt that some workers employed by Uganda Railway have lost their jobs despite government's directive to retain all of them.

But Mr Kateeba dismissed the allegation, saying that they will absorb all of them but in phases, adding that they have so far approved 200 applications. He said that they need about 600 workers.

Service

Background. Two years ago, Kampala Capital City Authority and RVR restarted the passenger train services from Kampala City to Namanve in Wakiso District to reduce on traffic congestion. According to National Transport Master Plan, more than 270,000 passengers use Kampala-Jinja Road daily, which causes heavy traffic jam and hike of transport fares.

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