Uganda and Tanzania yesterday signed an agreement to cooperate in the construction of a new standard gauge railway line, with an estimated overall cost of nearly 2 billion US Dollars, connecting the lake side harbour of Port Bell / Kampala via rail-ferry to Mwanza and then to the Tanzanian coast.
The ministers overseeing the transport portfolio in both countries, Hon. Omar Nundu from Tanzania and his Ugandan counterpart Hon. Abraham Byandala signed the pact in Dodoma, Tanzania’s political capital and when taken to task over the route reassured conservationists and environmentalists that the rail track would not cross the Serengeti as has been rumoured but follow a route around the Southern park boundaries, as will incidentally the new highway connecting the same area with the rest of the country. Here a decisive argument was finally won when common sense prevailed to keep the highway route out of the migration routes of the Serengeti and the commitment to have the new proposed railway follow a similar route is commendable and will be welcomed by the tourism fraternity too.
The Tanzanian railway development is also due to be linked to a greater use of a revamped rail network, extending and modernizing the links from Tanzania to initially Rwanda before then also reaching Burundi and the Eastern Congo.
This particular railway development is in line with Uganda’s declared intent to reducing its almost singular reliance for imports and exports of the Kampala to Mombasa railway and road network via Kenya to create both redundancy as well as bring competitive pricing for transportation of exports and imports into play. The new rail is a parallel development to plans by Kenya Railways and its Ugandan counterpart to modernize the current narrow gauge line and create a standard gauge connection between Mombasa’s port and Uganda, where freight trains could cover the distance within a day instead of taking up to a week and longer right now, especially considering the regular problems with derailments due to the poor track conditions at sections of the railway.