The Minister of State for Works, Gen. Katumba Wamala has commended the progress so far registered in the implementation of the Standard Gauge Railway Project in Uganda.
Gen. Katumba also reassures the country that with this good progress, Uganda should be able to commence construction very soon.
The Minister made the remarks during a monitoring exercise of the ongoing pre-construction works for the railway, in which he toured the entire SGR Eastern route alignment from Malaba to Kampala.
The 273KM route passes through 11 districts from the border with Kenya at Malaba, including Tororo, Butalejja, Namutumba, Iganga, Luuka, Mayuge, Jinja, Buikwe, Mukono, Wakiso and Kampala.
Gen. Wamala was briefed on the ongoing activities like land acquisition for the project, harmonisation of the planned railway project with both existing and other planned infrastructure projects such as roads, power lines, water lines, existing railway, telecoms among other infrastructure facilities.
He was also briefed on the harmonization with Kenya to enable seamless connectivity and operations at Malaba border where the SGR lines of the two countries will connect, preparations for utilisation of local content during construction, feasibility and related technical studies, procurement of a contractor as well as status of financing negotiations, among other key areas most of which are either already completed or nearing completion.
“I thank you for your efforts, just concentrate on your work, at the end the day we are going to build the railway and we will start soon,” said Gen. Wamala said, during a stopover in Rubongi in Tororo.
A railway training polytechnic is to be built in Tororo to support local capacity building in railway technology and skills.
In Iganga district, the Minister interacted with some key affected institutions that have to be relocated to pave way for the SGR, and thanked them for cooperating with the Government by giving up their land and properties to pave way for national development.
One of the institutions affected is Victoria High School located just outside Iganga town.
The head teacher of the school Mr. Kalya Abdallah however welcomed the project and assured the Minister that the school is ready to surrender their land for national development.
The Minister, who was accompanied by the SGR Project Management Unit team led by Project Coordinator, Eng. Kasingye Kyamugambi, also visited proposed sites for the new SGR stations, bridges and viaducts.
The Project will see 11 railway stations constructed along the Malaba-Kampala route in the first phase, as well as 64 bridges, including a nearly 1km long super bridge over the River Nile in Jinja.
The Nile Bridge will be one of the longest railway bridges in Africa.
Gen. Wamala also interacted with various project affected persons along the route who are being relocated to pave way for the SGR.
A significant number of these in the districts of Tororo, Butalejja, Namutumba, Luuka and parts of Iganga have already been compensated, vacated their land and moved to new homes.
He thanked them for putting their compensation money to good use and appealed to those yet to be compensated to be patient as Government continues to release their payments.
Kenya is scheduled to commission the first section of their SGR from Mombasa to Nairobi after completion of works, a milestone that Uganda and other Northern Corridor Partners, have commended and welcomed.
According to Gen. Katumba Wamala, who recently took on the docket of Works Minister, successful completion of the Mombasa-Nairobi route presents a good challenge for Uganda to commence its construction so that it connects with Kenya without any downtime.
“Uganda and Kenya have already agreed to synchronise their construction timelines for the Kisumu-Malaba route and the Malaba-Kampala route. We expect that by time Kenya reaches Malaba on the Kenyan side, we will be reaching Kampala, we will surely construct and interconnect,” he said.
The SGR is a regional project under the Northern Corridor Integration Projects (NCIP) under which the Heads of State of Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and South Sudan, agreed to develop a new, modern, reliable and efficient railway system to interconnect their cities, and thereby the region, and most importantly connect them Mombasa Port for easier access to the advanced markets of Europe and the Americas.
Uganda has made considerable progress todate. Over 60% of the land needed for construction has been acquired as the process continues.
In September 2016, Uganda signed a bilateral agreement with Kenya for the joint and seamless operation of the Mombasa- Kampala SGR, especially at Malaba border where the two lines connect.
The two Governments agreed on tariff structures, operations, building of a one-stop border post at Malaba station in Kenya and to allow locomotive and rolling stocks access to each other’s territory among others.
The two countries further issued a joint communique on joint sourcing of financing and harmonising of construction timelines among others.
Discussions for financing of the Uganda SGR with Exim Bank of China is on track and expected to reach closure very soon.
Uganda therefore expects to commence construction later this year.