PUBLISHED ON November 14th, 2014

Standard gauge railway to transform regional trade

The construction of the $3.6b double-track standard gauge railway (1,435mm) linking Kenya’s Indian Ocean port city of Mombasa to the capital Nairobi could become an open door to Uganda’s economy.

The standard gauge railway line, which is set to be completed in 2018 under a contract by China Roads and Bridges Company, which the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure has focused efforts on designing, developing and maintaining a transport and infrastructure architecture that could facilitate sector growth and accelerate national economic development.

According to the budget priorities for FY2014/15, the transport sector is a major priority which aims to pursue world class transportation systems for improved quality of life by ensuring the country is connected and served by an efficient, safe, accessible and sustainable transportation services.

The new railway will supplement road transport, thereby increasing the efficiency of the Northern Corridor by providing gateway linking Kenya’s Maritime Port of Mombasa to the landlocked economies of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan. It will significantly reduce the cost of road maintenance hence lowering the cost of doing business in the region thereby improving trade and attracting investments. The implementation of the SGR is expected to transform Uganda and the region for the better.

An example of Kenya, to satisfy the growing demand for port services brought about by growing regional economies, they are developing a second commercial port at Lamu, under the LAPSSET project. For example, Mombasa Port, Lamu Port will be the beginning of a second transport and economic corridor for Kenya and the region.

With traders having challenges to transport cargo out of Mombasa, this will be resolved with the use of the Standard Guage Railway. This is one of the policies contained in the SGR Protocol and any cargo with a weight above 15 tonnes will not be allowed on roads. This will save the expensive road infrastructure while ensuring that operators of the rail networks get enough traffic tonnage to pay their way.

With Uganda’s Vision 2040, which aims at transforming the country from predominantly peasant and low income country of per capita income of $506 to a competitive upper middle income country of per capita income $9,500 by 2040. This will enable Uganda graduate into a lower middle income category by 2032 and attain its target in 2040.

The country must continue to recognise the role of infrastructural development within transport projects such as the standard-gauge railway that will give chance for Ugandans to transport and receive their goods with ease to other countries. Therefore, in order to achieve this goal, there is need to implement such robust projects and develop appropriate regulations and standards.

The EAC partner states need to put into consideration private public partnerships to ensure value for money for the taxpayer through optimal risk transfer and risk management. It is through these partnerships which will integrate and firmly interconnect transport. The Government ought to explore such financing modalities like public private partnerships to achieve the next milestones with the EAC.

In a nutshell, the SGR will provide numerous opportunities and benefits of which regional integration will be the main key achievement and in the long run implement the common market protocol. All these views and knowledge need to be used to develop not only railways but, more importantly, multimodal transport policies that can ensure maximum efficiency and sustainability of future railways infrastructure investments in the EAC Partner States.

Source: New Vision

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