Uganda restoring colonial-era rail after China fails to fund another line

The rail line was built during British colonial rule and hasn’t been in use for nearly four decades.

Schoolgirl stands with backpack
The route will cut the cost of shipping goods to the country's north, South Sudan and Democratic Republic of the Congo [Thomas Mukoya/Reuters]

Uganda has started construction to restore a British-era railway line after it failed to get funding from China for another standard gauge railway (SGR).

The line will cut the cost of shipping goods to the country’s north, South Sudan and Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a railway spokesperson said on Friday.

The restoration has come after Uganda scrapped a contract with China Harbour and Engineering Company Ltd to build a $2.2bn SGR earlier this year.

“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,” said John Linnon Sengendo, spokesman for state-run Uganda Railways Corporation.

The line, part of the East Africa rail network that stretches from Kenya’s seaport of Mombasa, was built during British colonial rule in the early 20th century and has not been in use for nearly 40 years.

Sengendo said China Road and Bridge Corporation will restore the old line in the next two years for 200 billion shillings ($55.48m) provided by the Ugandan government.

The restored line will connect the town of Tororo in Uganda’s east, near the Kenyan border, with the town of Gulu in Uganda’s north, near the South Sudan border.

Ugandan officials hope the restored rail line will replace trucks shipping goods to both South Sudan and DRC.

The restoration follows on the heels of another project to build a standard gauge railway to link Naivasha in Kenya and Uganda’s capital Kampala, announced last week by the respective countries’ transport ministers.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies