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Kenya Bets on Century Old railway to Ease Uganda Cargo Traffic

Sendy Writer
May 20, 2021

Kenya Railways will construct a marshalling yard at the Naivasha Inland Container Depot (ICD) to help ease the movement of freight from the Mombasa port to Uganda as the government seeks to reduce road usage.

This comes at a time when the agency has already started revamping the existing metre gauge railway (MGR) between Naivasha and Malaba to help in shipping cargo that is transported by standard gauge railway (SGR) from the Mombasa port to the Naivasha ICD.

Kenya Railways chairman Omudho Awitta said the corporation is constructing a connection link in Suswa where the SGR line ends to connect the existing MGR line.

The government has set aside Sh2 billion in the financial year 2021/22 for the construction of the Suswa-Naivasha link and rehabilitation of the old railway line.

"Plans are underway to put up a marshalling yard where containers that are destined to Uganda will be kept before they are transferred to Malaba border via the metre gauge railway," said Rtd Maj Gen Awitta.

The government has over the years advocated the use of railway and pipeline as an alternative to the road and cut the maintenance costs.

In March 2019, the government announced plans to give land to Uganda for the construction of the dry port in Naivasha to enable trucks that travel to Mombasa for cargo collection to terminate their journeys at the ICD where all the clearance of goods would be done.

Uganda is the biggest market for Kenyan goods and the top client to the Mombasa port, especially for transit cargo, ahead of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Sudan and Rwanda.

Kenya's Ministry of Transport had issued a directive in 2019 that required all the trucks from Uganda to collect cargo at the Naivasha ICD. However, the move did not go well with freighters in the neighbouring landlocked State.

However, the decision was stopped after a court issued an injunction barring the compulsory use of the facility following a case a freighter's lobby filed.

Uganda recently started revamping its old railway line, an indicator that the country is now gearing up for a smooth connection of railway cargo from the Naivasha ICD depot. Kampala signed a Sh5 billion deal with a Chinese firm to rehabilitate an old metre gauge railway line between Malaba and Kampala.

The 260-kilometre Kampala line will be linked to the SGR track in Naivasha through the metre gauge railway that Kenya is currently upgrading.

Plans to link the Malaba line to the SGR come as Kenya prepares to clear goods imported through the Mombasa port and headed to western Kenya and the neighbouring countries of Uganda, the Democratic Republic Congo and South Sudan through the Naivasha dry port.

President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2019 announced that Kenya would allocate a 10-acre piece of land to South Sudan at the Naivasha ICD Industrial Park to ease the movement of goods to the neighbouring nation.

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