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Kenya, Uganda want new railway fast

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 6 – Kenya and Uganda on Tuesday opposed a proposed $10 million feasibility study on the development of a new standard gauge railway between Mombassa and Kampala.

Speaking during a joint commissioning meeting on the new Kenya-Uganda railway held in Nairobi, Prime Minister Raila Odinga said the two governments should instead start designing the project, terming feasibility studies ‘a waste of resources’.

“Let us move away from this mentality of feasibility studies. What we need to do is the design of the railway line and build the way the British did it in a record five years to reach Kisumu with very rudimentary technology of that time. If they could do it we can do it from Mombasa to Kampala; all we need is the will.”

Last year Presidents Mwai Kibaki and Yoweri Museveni called for both countries to conduct independent feasibility studies to be factored into the 2009/2010 financial year.

Uganda Public Works minister John Nasasira said the two governments could finance the project to assist in the handling of the movement of cargo and people in the region.

“Our view as Uganda is that this should not be a feasibility study; it should a study to determine the most economical way of developing this line not whether it is feasible or not – we are convinced it is,” he said.

“We also think our governments are able to finance this study. We should not wait to come up with a proposal to determine the most economical route to follow. The other partners could join us and support us to develop the line,” Mr Nasasira insisted.

At the same time Transport Minister Chirau Ali Mwakwere said Kenya and Uganda need to spend $500 million during the next five years to upgrade a rail line running between the two countries.

The existing meter-gauge railway is overwhelmed in terms of capacity. The upgrade will be financed on a design-build-operate-and-transfer basis.

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“It will also give the railway the capacity to handle five million tonnes of cargo a year,” Mwakwere said.

Last year, the line moved seven percent of the 16 million tonnes of cargo handled by the port of Mombasa, compared with 20 percent in 2006, according to Mr Odinga.

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

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