Uganda, Tanzania to go electric in railway line project

Monday June 12 2017

Kenya’s standard gauge railway. Government plans to upgrade the new railway line to electric in four year’s time. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Uganda and Tanzania have decided to have their new standard gauge railway lines built with electric capability, as they plan to eventually upgrade to electric trains when energy supply needs are eventually met.
Kenya says it will upgrade its new SGR line to electric in four year’s time as the design allows for the addition of a single electric line at a cost of $480 million, once the power supply becomes dependable, according to Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia.

The electric component will cost 15 per cent of the money already spent on the construction of the 472km Mombasa-Nairobi line.

“We didn’t want to construct an electric line since we don’t have a dependable source of electricity. So we had to construct a diesel locomotive line but with a capability of upgrading it,” said Mr Macharia.

Uganda’s SGR project co-ordinator Kasingye Kyamugamba said that they have chosen to have an electric element incorporated in their project because, “We have been assured of adequate power from the ongoing energy projects at Karuma and Isimba. This decision was also based on the costing factor, given that after completion, the long term costs of operation and maintenance will be cheaper than diesel.”

Uganda and Tanzania are planning to buy trains with an electric element. And while Kenya’s trains run on diesel engines, Ethiopia has the China Class 2, with a mixture of diesel and electrical engines.


The Ethiopia-Djibouti train line in Addis Ababa. The 750 kilometre railway, built by two Chinese companies, links Addis Ababa to the Red Sea port city of Djibouti in about 10 hours. AFP PHOTO | ZACHARIAS ABUBEKER


In February, Tanzania awarded Turkish firm Yapi Merkezi and Portuguese firm Mota-Engil the $1.2 billion contract to build the 205km first phase of the line that will run from Dar es Salaam to Morogoro and is expected to be completed by October 2019.

READ: Turkish, Portuguese firms win bid to construct Tanzania’s SGR

The design includes an electric element with a speed of 160 km/h for the passenger trains, and a mix that will allow for diesel engines, with a 120 km/h for the cargo trains.

These electric railroads will however depend on the availability of electricity in a region that is constantly in deficit.

Uganda is expecting its power generation to reach 1,500MW in 2019, after the two dams inject an additional 783MW — Karuma at 600MW and Isimba Hydropower at 183MW) into the national grid.

The country’s current peak power system demand stands at 500MW against an installed generation capacity of 851.5MW, and total power generation stands at 535MW.
Tanzania’s power generation capacity currently stands at about 1,500 MW, against a demand of 1,352 MW.

The country is banking on the development of its vast gas finds into electricity to increase its capacity and also provide a dedicated electric line for the SGR network, once completed.