The transport ministers of Kenya and Uganda, Ali Chirau Mwakwere and John Nasasira, have signed a bilateral agreement on behalf of their governments covering the proposed construction and management of a standard gauge railway between Mombasa and Kampala, including a branch to Kisumu on Lake Victoria. This comes in the wake of Presidents Mwai Kibaki and Yoweri Museveni agreeing in January to establish such a line.

The agreement requires each government to pay the cost of construction within its own country. No estimates have been made known at this stage, nor any indication of exactly how the project is to be funded. The proposed line is expected to link “later” with Rwanda and the Southern Sudan.

Minister Mwakere was quoted saying: “The most important thing at the moment is that the railway line is feasible and a partner is already carrying out the [feasibility] study and will make the preliminary designs at no cost to the two governments although it is estimated to cost $US10 million”

According to minister Nasasira, “We cannot continue relying on the current outdated railway line and locomotives that move at 50km/h. Over 80% of railway operations [in the world] today are modern and it is even becoming difficult to obtain spare parts for the old lines.”

The ministers signed the agreement after conclusion of a regional conference on the northern corridor transport and trade facilitation at the Whitesands Beach hotel. The two-day conference brought together regional transport and port stakeholders within the East African Community and Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) with their trade block, the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (Comesa).

[ Not quite clear how viability is assured before the feasibility study is concluded, but still. – editor]

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