Uganda’s new Shs48b trains useless – URC

One of the recently procured GL30SCC locomotives at a railway station in Kampala during their unveiling in October. PHOTO | STEPHEN OTAGE 

What you need to know:

  • URC statement. In a statement issued and posted on the URC twitter handle, the management said: “The four locomotives purchased are fit for purpose, reliable and compatible with the Meter Gauge Railway system,” the statement read in part.
  • It added: “Currently URC personnel (engineers and drivers) are being trained and tested to operate and maintain the locomotives. URC is undertaking spot track improvement and modification to the triangles or the turn points for the locomotives to operate safely and will be completed by November 15.”

At least Shs48 billion splashed by the Uganda Railways Corporation (URC) on buying four locomotives is said to have gone to waste since the version of locomotives shipped into the country from South Africa cannot be used.

This is because the locomotives with a haulage capacity of 1,500 tonnes plus a shelf life of about 40 years cannot be supported by available railway line plates to move. Even worse, the resale of the four  South African made locomotives is nearly impossible.

This implies that government has to trace more money and finance the procurement of plates that would match the four locomotives if value for money is to be realised out of them.

The revelation was made by officials from the Uganda Railways Corporation (URC) when they appeared before Parliament’s Committee on Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) chaired by the Nakawa West MP Joel Ssenyonyi.

“The issue of locomotives is one we want to dig deeper into. The locomotives came in at a very high cost of Shs48 billion yet the employees who are supposed to use them realise they are not fit for purpose,” Mr Ssenyonyi said.

In his submission, the President of the Uganda Railway Workers’ Union, Mr James Akech, revealed that the locomotives procured in September are totally incompatible with the railway tracks and technology in the country.

“As workers we only learnt that there was no team spirit. We knew of the people who went to buy the locomotives. The specifications [of the locomotives] should be two; One on the locomotives and then two; on the capacity of our rail line which are the responsibilities of the mechanical and civil engineering department,” Mr Akech said.

“We had civil engineering department distancing itself saying since they didn’t involve us [then] whatever comes is theirs.”

The secretary general of Uganda Railways Workers Union, Mr Victor Byemaro, told the committee that the locomotives have for close to two months now been lying idle and are useless.

Government officials, who went to buy the locomotives, are said to have sidelined colleagues knowledgeable on the required specifications and never made consultations with the engineering department of URC before buying the locomotives.

Mr Ssenyonyi has vowed to press the URC top management to explain the cause of the irregularity that caused wastage of the taxpayers’ money.


In June last year, government approved Shs1.39 trillion loan for URC to undertake repairs of the 215km-long long railway line from Kampala to Malaba.