Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Kenya, Uganda to speed up railway project

Posted on Wednesday 7 January 2009, by Andualem Sisay, AfricaNews reporter in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

The governments of Kenya and Uganda highlighted their readiness to speed up the construction of the Kenya-Uganda railway line. Both governments said there was no need for conducting a feasibility study.

In a joint steering meeting on the construction of the new Kenya-Uganda railway this week, Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga indicated that he did not see the need for the study estimated to cost Sh800 million with Kenya’s contributing over Sh600 million.

“Such studies often gather dust at Government offices and are never implemented. “Why do we have to spend a whooping ten million dollars for a feasibility study? All we need is to design the railway line,” said the PM who also chaired the joint steering meeting.

John Nasasira, Uganda’s minister for Works and Transport, shared Mr. Odinga’s view. Mr Nasasira on his part stated that the new standard gauge railway line is long overdue. “Let us go the British way. They never did a feasibility study. We know for certain that we need the railway line,” he said.

The PM also took issue with the timing for the project which states that the construction should be complete by 2017. Indicating the fact that the railway constructors took five years to reach Kisumu from Mombasa in 1896, Mr Odinga said: “At this age and era of technology, it should take us less than three years to reach Kampala”.

He maintained that the move will unlock the East African countries potential which is currently being hampered by poor transport systems. “We are not here for fun or mere drama. We know that Kenyans is strategically placed to serve as the transport hub for the region.”

The PM called for the delegations from the two countries to show the will and power to undertake the project saying it will help interconnect the Eastern Africa region.

The PM also indicated that the East African Federation is the direction to go if both Kenya and Uganda are to be taken serious. “In fact, I am for the fast tracking of the process to achieve the set goals earlier than the set time frame,” he said.

Chirau Mwakwere Transport minister of Kenya said the current railway gauge is overwhelmed by luggage from the port estimated at 16 million tons.
“The current railway’s cargo hauling capacity has continued to decline accounting for less than 6 per cent freight movement on the northern corridor by 2007,” he said.

The minister said it requires Sh38 billion to restore to railway to its full capacity of handling 5 million tons of luggage besides the increasing number of passengers whose demand for rail transport services has outstripped the present capacity.