Terrain, Distance and Funding Delaying Uganda’s SGR – Technocrats

The progress of Uganda’s part on the tripartite Standard Gauge Railway by member states of the East African Community has been slow compared to Kenya.

But in addition to that, find the cost on Uganda’s project is hefty and many Ugandans have since raised concern over why Kenya and Ethiopia have had relatively cheaper railway line. It will connect Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan.

On Tuesday, technocrats from the Uganda Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) Project clarified on the cost variances citing geography and mileage as the major inflating factors. The railway route from Malaba to Kampala (273 kms) alone is set to cost Uganda about USD 2.3 billion.

Uganda opted for a Class One (1) railway which will be powered by electricity as opposed to Kenya’s which will run on diesel. The other three routes will be; Kampala to Mirama Hills (on Tanzania border), Tororo to Nimule (on South Sudan border) and Kampala to Mpondwe (on DRC border).

According to Eng. Kasingye Kyamugambi the Project Coordinator of the Standard Gauge Railway project, this sum will cover construction set up, locomotive costs and provisional services.

Whereas the commencement date remains uncertain, Kyamugambi said that there construction would take 42 months.

“We can’t compare the cost of our (Uganda) railway with that of Kenya since our route will comprise building bridges over swamps, gullies and land.

Also, we are building Class 1 as opposed to Kenya and Ethiopia whose SGR is Class 2” Eng. Daniel Kabogoza the Senior Civil Engineer in charge of Design said during an engagement with the press.


To cross River Nile, the railway line will require a super bridge whose pillars will go 35 metres under the water surface and 42 metres above the water level. The bridge will cost about USD 300 million.

In total, bridges account for 7.8% of Uganda’s 1,000 kms long (from the coast) standard gauge railway which implies even more financial implications.

“Due to the value of soils in wetlands, Uganda will apply more rock fill per kilometer,” Eng. Kabogoza said, adding that there are several valleys and hills between the Malabar – Kampala route.

The average cost per track kilometer will be USD 5.914 million compared to Kenya’s (USD 5.68 million) and Ethiopia (USD 4.471 million).

Regarding the delay in project implementation, Eng. Kyamugambi said land compensation has been the biggest obstacle. He however added that Uganda is still in the process of engaging funding partners like China’s Exim Bank.

Out of the over 6,000 project affected persons that require compensation only 3,000 have been paid so far.

John Holland, a reputable international company in railway operations has been contracted to handle operations on the entire Mombasa – Kampala route.


The standard gauge railway will offer an affordable, reliable and efficient transport system. According to the Project Coordinator, “it will reduce costs of transport, raise business volumes and deliver more taxes to government for development”.

Importantly, transportation of cargo from the port of Mombasa in Kenya to Kampala which has always taken 14 days will now be reduced to just 24 hours.

The light railway for passengers will make it convenient for individuals commuting between Kampala, Wakiso and Mukono as well us decongest the roads.

Each cargo train will be carrying 4,000 to 5,000 tonnes which is equivalent to about 106 cargo trucks that ply roads. Government expects this to reduce the pressure exerted on roads which has often led to deterioration costing millions in road repairs.

The construction process is also to boost the local businesses especially those that produce cement and steel which are key components. “Cement for SGR will be 100% locally sourced. We’re engaging steel manufacturers to be able to supply. We are currently working on a capacity building plan but the army (UPDF) will be among those to provide labor. But 90% of the labor will be done by Ugandans,” Kyamugambi said.

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