Uganda has begun restoring a branch of a century-old, British-built railway line that is expected to cut the cost of shipping goods to the country’s north, South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo, a railway spokesperson said.
The line, which has been out of use for roughly 40 years, is part of the East Africa rail network that stretches from Kenya’s Indian Ocean seaport of Mombasa. It was built by Kenya and Uganda’s former colonial ruler Britain around the beginning of the 20th-century.
“Our ambition is to move all long-distance bulk cargo transportation onto rail from roads in a few years because rail is cheaper in terms of cost and time,” John Linnon Sengendo, spokesman for state-run Uganda Railways Corporation (URC) said.
Uganda decided to revamp the old network after plans to build a separate modern standard gauge railway (SGR) failed to secure financing from China.
Early this year Uganda terminated a contract with China Harbour and Engineering Company Ltd (CHEC) to build the $2.2 billion SGR and is seeking a new contractor.
Meanwhile, Sengendo said China Road and Bridge Corporation(CRBC) would restore the old line over the course of two years at a cost of 200 billion shillings ($55.48 million) provided by the Ugandan government.
The 382 km (237 mile) section of the line to be repaired connects Tororo town in Uganda’s east near the border with Kenya and terminates at a logistics hub in Gulu in Uganda’s north near the border with South Sudan.
The European Union funded construction of the Gulu hub, completed in late 2021, as part of the effort to revamp Uganda’s railway network, which fell into disrepair during the country’s economic collapse in 1970s and early 80s.
Ugandan officials hope once the link is restored, rail will replace trucks in shipping transit goods to South Sudan and northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Last week, Kenya’s and Uganda’s transport ministers said they would accelerate another project to build a standard gauge railway to link Naivasha in Kenya and Uganda’s capital Kampala.