Steel makers encouraging railway vandalism - URC

Monday April 05 2021

Men display one of the railway sleepers that were recovered in an operation recently. PHOTO | FILE

By Christine Kasemiire

Buried under the rubble of a multiplicity of dilapidated metal, was a four meter rail believed to belong to Uganda Railways Corporation.

 The rail was one of the many components mounted on a truck load full of vandalised railway line material valued at $1m (Shs366m).
This, it is suspected is sold to Chinese steel manufacturers in the areas of Mbalala and Mukono.

 In an operation conducted by Superintendent of Police Agnes Agabirwe, police with the assistance of Uganda Railways Corporation (URC) enforcement staff, recovered multiple properties belonging to URC.  
 “When you see the materials for the railway, please send them back.

 Government still needs it. This is why we are here, to request you to leave the railway line intact,” SP Agabirwe said at one of the venues from which railway slippers were recovers.

URC had earlier been tipped off by a whistleblowers that a Chinese factory was melting rail materials and a search culminated into the retrieval of five truckloads of rail material.

 The operation was shortly followed by a March 29 order from the Chief Magistrates Court in Mukono in favour of URC to conduct a search for rail materials including sleepers, rails and Kyaci materials at Tian Tang factory.


During the Tuesday operation, police asked officials at Tian Tang to assist in the search for rail material around the factory, but they declined and claimed all material had been taken in an earlier operation conducted by police the previous Saturday.
 However, on conducting a thorough search, more rail material was recovered.

The challenge of vandalised rail property for scrap is deep rooted in the country with more than  $100m lost in about a decade.

 A  four metre rail, URC said is procured at about $120 (Shs439,704) but sold as scrap to the steel manufacturers at about Shs20,000.
The scrap is melted and turned into steel bars, which go for about Shs70,000 on the open market.

 Mr Stanley Sendegeya, the URC managing director, said the material recovered from Tian Tang is valued at close to $1m.

Vandalism, he said, has been predominantly reported in areas surrounded by industries, especially those manufacturing steel such as Jinja-Iganga, Mukono-Kawolo and most recently Mbale and Packwach.

 The vice, he said, is the main cause of accidents on the railway line.
 “Most of the accidents are caused by bad assets, a bad line vandalised by people and effect on locomotives and wagons,” he said.  

 Mr Hussein Kyazze, an enforcement officer at URC, said they recorded three train accidents last year and one this year.

Recently, an accident occurred after a cargo train derailed of the rail at Mukwano Roundabout in Kampala.

Search continues      

According to Mr Sendegeya, there are renewed efforts by URC to arrest those found vandalising rail lines and focus on factories found in possession of the material.

“We have information of the factories that are purchasing rail materials. We are going raid them one-by-one,” he said.

URC has an ambitious $1b plan to refurbish the rail line and already, $450m has been provided.

The operation comes after the arrest of 15 suspects believed to vandalize rail property in Mbale.