Kenya–Uganda rail operator Rift Valley Railways (RVR) has embarked on a major renovation of its locomotive overhaul facility in Kampala as part of a five-year turnaround effort at a cost of $284 million.
Company officials say lack of adequate maintenance capacity for locomotives and rolling stock has been a contributing factor to the cargo congestion at Mombasa port.
The funds are to be used for the rehabilitation of the Nalukolongo Railway Workshop in Kampala. Nalukolongo is being rehabilitated at a cost of $410,000, set to be complete by December 2012.
The rehabilitation, which is expected to last three months, will increase the availability of locomotives and wagons.
The workshop is currently working below capacity and has rehabilitated 54 wagons out of a targeted 365. Overhauling of eight locomotives started at the beginning of September and is expected to last six months.
“We have had a shaky start, with five years that for all intents and purposes were wasted. But RVR now has $284 million in the bank and there should be a marked difference within the next 12 months,” Group Chief Executive Brown Ondego said during the handover of the facility to civil contractor Roko Construction.
RVR acquired the 25 year concession to run the railway in 2006, and has since been sourcing for money to revamp the railway line and its rolling stock.
RVR general manager Geoffrey Busuulwa said the workshop will speed up the rate at which locomotives and wagons are repaired and brought back into service.
RVR has received $284 million from six development finance institutions that include the African Development Bank, International Finance Corporation, Dutch Development Bank and the Belgian Investment Company for Developing Countries.
The infrastructure crisis facility debt pool, which is funded by the German Development Finance institution KfW Bankengruppe, also contributed.
The funds will also be used for the replacement of rails at various sections between Mombasa and Nairobi, and the repair of nine major culverts between Busembatia and Jinja in Uganda.
Other work will include realigning the railway, stabilising the line, and replacement of sleepers to improve the track’s geometry.
The company will also invest $20 million in the replacement of 177 curves on the railway line between Kampala and Mombasa. The company will also install microprocessors and on-board computers for communication with the control centre.
Mr Ondego said the locomotive upgrades will improve the traction capacity, allowing longer trains and higher cargo uplift. RVR is upgrading the vehicles by installing microprocessors and on-board computers for communication with the control centre.
Last week, the company took over operation of the refurbished wagon ferry MV Kaawa that will be plying the Mwanza- Port Bell route.
Ondego said RVR is now rehabilitating the Pakwach-Gulu rail to facilitate trade with South Sudan.