Railway Transport

Railway Transport

railway transport

Current state
The line’s management changed from the Uganda Railways Corporation to the Rift Valley Railways (RVR) in 2006. The Rift Valley Railways consortium took over the operations of the Uganda and Kenya Railways after acquiring a 25-year concession in November 2006 to operate the Kenya-Uganda Railway line built by the British. It stretches from the Port of Mombasa to Kampala in Uganda, touching major economic towns within the region.

Regulatory Framework

Uganda Railways Corporation

Uganda Railways Corporation (URC) is a corporate body established by the Uganda Railways Corporation Act (1992).The mandate of the Corporation is: the construction, operation and maintenance of railway, marine and road services both in and outside Uganda, for the carriage of passengers and goods.


The current mandate of the Uganda Railways Corporation is as follows:

  • URC is a lead agency on matters relating to Railways both current and future developments
  • To monitor and evaluate compliance of the railway concessionaire and their respective concession obligations
  • To oversee and manage the corporation’s non-core(non-conceded) assets, the core (conceded assets that are yet to be taken over by the concessionaire and any residual activities and liabilities of the corporation
  • To provide technical assistance in reference to Railways matters to Minister of Works and to other ministries and government agencies
  • To regulate railway transport on the behalf of MOWT and Project management of government driven programs.

 Railway Network

The railway network in Uganda extends for an estimated 1,260 kms comprising the following

  1. The main line from Kampala to Tororo/Malaba,part of the Northern Corridor between Kampala and Mombasa:250km;
  2. Spur lines to Jinja and Port Bell ferry terminals on Lake Victoria for routes to Kisumu (Kenya) and Mwanza (Tanzania):21km
  • The western line from Kampala to Kasese:333km
  1. The northern line from Tororo to Pakwach:641km and;
  2. The Busoga Loop line: 15km.

The railway transport system in Uganda also includes rail wagon ferry services on Lake Victoria connecting Port Bell and/or Jinja to rail networks in Tanzania at Mwanza and Kisumu in Kenya. The Uganda rail track is metre gauge. The government is in the process of constructing a standard gauge railway between Tororo –Pakwach and Kampala- Tororo and Malaba -Kampala.

The Rift Valley Railways Consortium (RVR)

The Rift Valley Railways Consortium (RVR) manages railways transport of Uganda and Kenya. Currently the service that is provided by RVR is only cargo transportation.

A total of 818,520 tonnes was hauled in 2015 compared to 682,800 tonnes in 2014 representing an increase of 19.9 percent. The Net tonnes by rail ferried through Port Bell decreased by 66 percent in 2015.

Railway Transport statistics, 2012-2015

                                                                                                 Percentage Annual Change

Indicator                                                 2012       2013        2014            2015         2014           2015

Net ton-km (‘000) 136,247.3 131,033.7 153,747.6 189,081.0 17.3 23.0
Net tones 612,755.0 572,713.0 682,800.0 818,520.4 19.2 19.9
Net tonnes by rail ferries through Port Bell 24,245.0 27,481.0 9,669.5 3,255.2 -64.8 -66.6
Wagon Productivity (tkm/wagon ‘000) 103.0 98.4 161.3 235.9 63.8 46.2
Locomotive Availability (%) 7.9 6.6 5.0 7.8 -23.6 55.0
Locomotive productivity (km/loco/day) 1,888.1 2,082.0 2,206.3 2,136.4 6.0 -3.2
Wagon availability 7.1 6.2 6.4 6.8 3.2 5.9
Wagon Transit Time MSA-KLA (days) 128.5 122.0 116.5 134.5 -4.5 15.5
Wagon turn- round time MSA-KLA-MSA (days) 379.0 416.5 187.0 140.2 -55.1 -25.0
Number of reported accidents 172.0 204.0 255.0 549.0 25.0 115.3
Number of fatalities 9.0 8.0 2.0 2.0 -75.0 0.0

Source: Rift Valley Railways

The takeover of the century-old line by TVR became necessary in order to restructure the railway to enhance its capacity for revenue generation. RVR is currently operating the Kampala-Mombasa route, but only for freight services despite the minimal use of the line, the cargo services offered by RVR are vital despite the fact the transport fares have gone up after the RVR takeover.

Challenges of operating the railway transport system
The following are the challenges of operating the railway transport system:

Cargo volume is still on the lower side. A lot of cargo still comes by roadThe train is very slow as it moves at speeds of 25 kph.
There is about three times more traffic inbound than outbound. This causes a lot of congestion in rail yard in Kampala.
Across the country, the existing railway infrastructure is characterised by buried or old rails, dilapidated buildings and rotting wagons.
Out of the total of 1,266km rail network in Uganda, only 330km is operational. Lines were closed either due to their technical deficiencies or low traffic volumes

Source: 2016 abstract UBOS