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Kenya | Uganda
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Odinga says feasibility study on railway a waste of resources

afrol News, 7 January - Kenyan Prime Minister, Raila Odinga has cast aside proposals recommending the establishment of feasibility study on the new standard gauge Rail line between Mombasa port and Kampala, saying the move was uneconomical.

Mr Odinga who chaired a joint steering meeting on the construction of the new Kenya-Uganda railway said the Sh800 million (about US$ 8 million) for Kenya study and another Sh200 million ($ 2 million) for their Ugandan counterpart was too costly for developing nations.

"I say the future progress in this region rests on the success of the joint commission of the new Kenya-Uganda railway which has been a lifeline not just for the two states but also for other countries and our government must answer the gapping infrastructure deficit with modern communication," he argued.

Kenya and Uganda governments are expected to sign a bilateral agreement in the next three months to construct a new high capacity and speed standard gauge railway with a branch line to Kisumu at a cost of $ 500 million.

Local reports said the new line which will operate concurrently with the existing metre gauge being operated by Rift Valley Railway which entered the scene in late 2006, has come under repeated criticism for running down the railway network and causing a cargo pile-up at the Mombasa port.

"We want to build a modern standard gauge railway line because we have encountered numerous problems with the old railway even after concession," the Prime Minister told local media.

Reports further said although the existing railway has a capacity of five million tonnes of goods a year, the hauling capacity has continued to decline accounting for less than six per cent of freight movement in the Northern Corridor by 2007.

"This performance is extremely poor considering the Mombasa port is currently handling in excess of 16 million tonnes of cargo per year," Kenya Broadcasting Corporation said in a report.

Transport minister Chirau Mwakwere said the current railway gauge is overwhelmed by luggage from the port estimated at 16 million tons.

The minister also said the restoration of the railway requires more than Sh35 billion, to its full capacity of handling 5 million tons of luggage besides the increasing number of passengers whose demand for rail transport services has outstripped the present capacity.

The upgrade will be financed on a design, build, operation and transfer basis, and could eventually be extended to Ethiopia, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.

The port is expected to handle 30 million tons of cargo in 2030, almost double the amount moved last year, he added.

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