Uganda seeks $976m for building, repair of railway

Friday January 01 2021

A Rift Valley Railways locomotive at the Kampala station. Uganda is seeking over $976 million to finance the rehabilitation of major sections of its century-old metre gauge railway. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Uganda is seeking over $976 million to finance the rehabilitation of major sections of its century-old metre gauge railway — a project expected to be completed in the next five years.

After failing to get the $2.3 billion standard gauge railway project off the ground in 2017, the government decided to rehabilitate the old metre gauge railway.  

According to Stanley Sendegeya, the managing director of Uganda Railways Corporation, the finances once available, will be used to upgrade existing railway lines, construct damaged ones, purchase locomotives, wagons and engines.

Among the routes earmarked for rehabilitation is the busy Kampala-Malaba line which connects the capital city with Kenya at Malaba border crossing and will cost up to $402 million to rehabilitate. 

The government has secured a $57.3 million loan from the European Union to upgrade and reconstruct the Tororo-Gulu line which hasn’t been in use for decades. This line offers better access to South Sudan, with goods collected at the logistics hub in Gulu which together with the railway line are currently under construction. 

Other sections earmarked for either construction or rehabilitation are the Gulu-Pakwach line which will connect to the country’s oil rich region and to northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo.


The other line is the Kampala-Kasese, which will connect to the mineral rich Rwenzori area and parts of western DR Congo, to be rehabilitated at a cost of $610 million.

The project also seeks to extend passenger services after the acquisition of new coaches to two different routes away from the single one, which is currently running.

“In the next five years, we expect those places to be serviced by the metre gauge railway as long as the financing is secured,” Mr Sendegeya told The EastAfrican.

The funding needed is currently unavailable but Mr Sendegeya said the government is willing to partly fund the project while looking for development partners.


Uganda is also stepping up its capacity to handle large volumes of cargo on Lake Victoria since exporters and importers of goods between Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania are increasingly opting for it.

Traders move goods between the ports of Mwanza in Tanzania, Kisumu in Kenya, Jinja and Port Bell in Uganda.

Mr Sendegeya said the increasing freight volumes being moved on the lake creates the need for better facilities at both Port Bell and Jinja. Last year, Uganda upgraded the Port Bell pier and the connecting railway line with Jinja now on the cards.

The Jinja port currently handles fuel exports from Kisumu while Port bell handles exports like steel products, cement and vegetable oils.