Kampala-Malaba railway upgrade nears completion

A section of the metre gauge railway line in Jinja that is under rehabilitation. PHOTO/TAUSI NAKATO

What you need to know:

  • The phased rehabilitation of MGR started in February with funding from the African Development Bank.

The rehabilitation of the Kampala-Malaba Metre Gauge Railway (MGR) line is at 95 per cent, paving way for its handover to the government next month, according to the contractor, Chinese Railway and Bridge Cooperation (CRBC).

In 2022, the Ugandan Government contracted the CRBC to rehabilitate the MGR line from Malaba to Mukono station, with a total length of 234Kms, including Jinja Pier line (3.2 Kms), Jinja Pier yard (0.5 Kms) and crossing lines (8.3 Kms).

There are mainly 15 stations along the route, including Tororo, Iganga, Jinja, and Mukono. The project cost is $51m (about Shs184 billion) and the project timelines were 12 months from February 2022.

Mr John Sengendo, the Uganda Railways Corporation Senior Public Relations and Communication Officer, in a telephone interview, said: “The Corporation is happy that the project is being implemented as scheduled at 95 per cent currently.”

Mr Qin Jian, an engineer at CRBC, said they will hand over the MGR next month as stipulated in the contract.

“We have rehabilitated over 200 kilometres and are at 95 per cent. We have fitted everything, including rails, slippers, and compacted stones,” he said.

He added that they shall be able to hand over the project in February 2023 as planned because the remaining five per cent is too small.

Curbing vandalism

In order to curb vandalism at the newly-rehabilitated line, Mr Sengendo said they are going to employ permanent railway inspectors and install railway sensors to detect broken points on rails.

“Vandalism is not only about taking slippers or rails, but also stones. We are also working with the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) and local leaders along the line to see that vandalism stops,” Mr Sengendo said, adding that repairing a single rail costs $8 (about Shs30,000).

According to Mr Sengendo, the project has so far improved on the drainage, which includes the construction of new culverts, silt clearance of the drainage and lining of side drains, earthworks, which includes bush cleaning, rehabilitation of steel bridges, Railway Track Works (ballast screening, and refurbishment of existing rail track material) and reinstall, among others.

“Before the rehabilitation, the defects that existed on the line restricted the freight capacity of the railway, resulting in the capacity of railway transport not able to be fully developed.

“However, through the implementation of this project, it will give full play to the railway freight capacity, and the expected annual freight volume can reach 2 million tons, reduce the probability of accidents during train operation and improve the safety of train operation,” Mr Sengendo said.

He added: “It will also connect the Freight line of Kampala, Uganda-Naivasha ICD, Kenya-Mombasa port, Kenya, so as to facilitate the transportation convenience for the import and export of Ugandan goods.”