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Uganda will begin refurbishing its century-old rail network this month to boost bulk cargo transportation, after China halted $2.2 billion in funding for a new standard-gauge line, a senior rail official said on Nov. 6.
The rehabilitation will be carried out in phases over several years and cost at least 241 million euros ($267 million), Charles Kateeba, managing director of the state-run Uganda Railways Corporation, told Reuters.
The European Union has given a grant of 21.5 million euros and the railway corporation is talking to international development lenders for the rest.
Former colonial power Britain built the meter-gauge, 1,266 km (790 mile) network a century ago, mainly to move copper and other commodities.
But the network fell into disrepair during years of political upheaval and economic instability.
Now old, dilapidated engines hiss and clatter as they trundle between crumbling platforms, pulling drab carriages behind them. In many places, grass has grown over disused or missing tracks.
“Due to lack of maintenance over the years, most of the network is now in disuse,” Kateeba said. “We shall replace some areas which have been either removed by vandals or are badly worn.”
Uganda Railways Corporation chief executive Charles Kateeba speaks during a Reuters interview at his offices in Kampala, Uganda on Nov. 5, 2019. (Reuters)French firm Sogea-Satom will undertake the works, which include installing rocks ballast on sections, re-laying of tracks, flattening sections and repairing about 500 freight wagons.
China Hopes DashedBulk cargo transporters have been eager for cheaper transport, but China did not offer funding for the Ugandan section of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) regional project.
It was originally designed to connect Kenya’s Indian Ocean seaport of Mombasa to a vast hinterland including Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi.
This article first appeared on www.theepochtimes.com
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