The Uganda Railways Corporation has recently taken delivery of 20 refurbished flatbed wagons, aimed at revitalizing the Kampala-Dar-es-Salaam transportation route. These wagons underwent refurbishment by the Ugandan firm MOFR Engineering Solutions Ltd, at a cost slightly exceeding 1 billion Shillings (equivalent to 288,000 US Dollars). The financing for this endeavor was provided by the Central Corridor Transit Transport Facilitation Agency (CCTTFA).
Improving Cargo Transportation
General Edward Katumba Wamala, the Minister of Works and Transport, revealed the government’s ambitious goal to increase railway cargo transportation from its current annual volume of 40,000 tons to 200,000 tons within two years. Presently, a substantial 90 percent of cargo destined for and transiting through Uganda relies on road transport, known for its high costs, impacting both the business community and government due to infrastructure maintenance expenses.
Minister Katumba Wamala extended an appeal to the business community, encouraging them to embrace the railway system as a means of reducing the cost of conducting business in the country.
Challenges and Concerns
Despite the positive developments in the southern corridor, transporters and importers have expressed concerns regarding the high railway tariffs when compared to the Mombasa route. These concerns persist, despite the incentives offered by the Tanzanian government.
Stuart Mwesigwa, the Director of Business Management at Roofings, one of the principal clients of Uganda Railways, called for a reduction in tariffs, especially as the client base of Uganda Railways continues to grow.
Minister Katumba Wamala assured the private sector that as infrastructure improves and private sector utilization of the railway system increases, costs will naturally decrease, as Uganda Railways will find it easier to fund operations.
Challenges in Trade
The private sector also highlighted additional challenges affecting trade between Uganda and Tanzania, such as communication difficulties and obstacles related to acquiring work permits. William Busulwa, the Chairman of Uganda National Transport Alliance, emphasized that until these challenges are addressed, trade between the two countries will remain constrained.
To address the transportation and trade challenges, Uganda is working on enhancing water transport capacity between Mwanza in Tanzania and Kampala and Jinja. This effort includes the renovation of the MV Kaawa, slated for docking soon, and the retrieval of the MV Kabalega, which sank in 2005.
Flory Okonge Okandju, Executive Secretary of CCTTFA, commended Tanzania’s investments in water and railway transport projects and urged Uganda to follow suit to prevent congestion at ports due to cargo backlogs.
Minister Katumba Wamala acknowledged the need to prevent port congestion and emphasized the importance of the private sector’s increased use of the underutilized railway network.
Future Rehabilitation Plans
Ugandan officials also called upon the CCTTFA to extend their financial support for the rehabilitation of more equipment. The Uganda Railways Corporation expressed that approximately 500 pieces of equipment remain in storage yards, awaiting refurbishment.
Sarah Nambasa, Corporation Secretary of URC, highlighted the significance of the newly acquired wagons in enhancing cargo transportation options for Ugandans. She also mentioned that additional facilities are in development to support the expected rise in cargo transported by train, including the conversion of the Kampala Goods Shed into an inland depot.