PUBLISHED ON July 25th, 2014


In East Africa, railway transport is almost a century old, having been built by the Indians brought by the British colonialists in early 1900s.

By the time of Uganda’s independence, railway was one of the best and most used modes of transport in the region.

The reason was that countries within East Africa had not advanced, as they are today, in road and/or air transport.

The railway network had covered Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania and areas such as Lake Victoria sub-region: ships were used by railway organisations to transport goods and people across the lake.

Today, railway transport is dilapidated, tired and unable to compete with other transport sectors such as roads, despite the much energy and efforts being put into it.

What went wrong with railway transport?

Railway is probably the oldest mode of transport humanity has used.The history dates back to the 15th and 18th centuries.And even before this, in the 650BCs, miners used mine-carts which were very similar to the railway idea. Further before that, there were wheeled vehicles, pulled by men and animals during the slave trade years.

Wagon ways also appeared in ancient Greece with others found in Malta, and various areas of the Roman empire. The mechanized railway transport first appeared in England in 1820.

They used steam-engine locomotives. The system has since been powered by steam, diesel and electricity. Both in the United States of America and Britain, about 80 per cent of the railway transport were concentrated in either mining areas, corn belts or cattle-production areas.

In short, railway transport is as old as humanity. Surprisingly, expansion of railway lines in East Africa has not been done since colonial times. Management of the lines has proven a very big headache to proceeding governments in the entire East African region. For instance, Kenya has railway lines running from the port of Mombasa to Malaba, traversing through a wide area of agricultural regions of the Rift valley and western Kenya.

Source: The Observer

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