The National Enterprise Corporation (NEC), the business arm of the UPDF, is involved in the revamping of the 375.4 km Tororo- Gulu old railway line.
NEC, which is utilizing personnel of the Tororo based UPDF Railway Regiment as part of capacity building of the UPDF, has already completed the first clearing phase of the 56 km Tororo – Mbale stretch and is yet to complete the remaining 6 sections covering 319.4 KM.
NEC Executive Director, Lt Gen James Mugira, told ChimpReports on Wednesday morning that, “The first phase of the entire 375.4 km is expected to be completed in three months.”
President Museveni recently directed the shifting of cargo from lorry to railway transport as part of the efforts to combat the spread of Coronavirus by truck drivers.
The Tororo-Gulu-Pakwach railway line used to be a pivotal economic artery along the Northern Corridor linking the port of Mombasa and Eastern Uganda to Northern Uganda, as well as the neighbouring countries of South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo.
The line has been out of service since 1993 because of unrest in Northern Uganda– notably the Ugandan internal war with the Lord’s Resistance Army – and unfair competition of overloaded trucks.
Uganda is considering the construction of a new Standard Gauge Railway in order to link different regions of Uganda, including the Northern region, to the port of Mombasa.
But due to the huge financial amount required for such a project and the lengthy process in Kenya to reach the Ugandan border, the rehabilitation of the existing Meter Gauge Railway remains in the short and medium term, for the Northern route, the most realistic and relevant option to unlock Northern Uganda and to link it to the port of Mombasa.
The return of the train will improve transportation of agricultural products and other goods and services.
The railway project, partly funded by European Union, is expected to trigger growth in the neighbouring villages and trading centres as it was the case in the past when the line was functional.
All stations such as Tororo, Mbale, Soroti, Lira and Gulu among others may experience a rapid boom in business.
In terms of cargo, beyond agricultural products and minerals, any kind of aggregates constitute typical merchandise for rail transportation.
All the traffic forecast studies carried out since 2011 have shown that cement and steel could be major drivers together with vegetable oil and seed cakes and all kind of dry (including minerals) and general bulk cargo.
Equipment for oil extraction and refinery would be carried by rail, bringing an additional peak in the business model within the first 5 years.
The European Union recently said at 10% capture of the road freight transported on the corridor, the tonnage would grow from 168 100 tons/year, at the lowest after the construction of the oilfields, to 316 980 tons/year in 2039.
Ugandan railways developed from the 1930’s within East Africa with a main line from the port of Mombasa in Kenya to Kampala.
The networks extended to Kasese in the west and Pakwach in the northwest of the country. With the development of road transport, railway transport declined in the last three decades and freight traffic, which had reached more than four million tons on Kenya-Uganda, barely exceeds 1.5 million tons today.