Regional rail operator, Rift Valley Railways has acquired brand new locomotives hoped to improve railway infrastructure in Kenya and Uganda, the first since 1987.
Speaking on Thursday at the commissioning ceremony of three American built locomotives, part of a consignment of 20 acquired by RVR, Kenya’s Secretary for Transport, Eng. Michael Kamau said: “Taking cognizance of the investment made and the work in progress by RVR there indications that this Public Private Partnership is turning the corner and there are encouraging signs of bright days ahead in the railway sector which will positively impact many other sectors of the economy”.
The locomotives, purchased at a cost of ksh2.3 billion will be delivered over the next five months. Kamau said the commissioning was significant as it marks the first time locomotives have been brought into Kenya or Uganda since 1987.
He continued, “We are encouraged to see noteworthy recent improvements in operational performance, particularly in cargo transit time and the speed of evacuating cargo from the port”.
Talking about what the arrival of the locomotives meant to the concession Karim Sadek managing director of RVR’s majority shareholder Qalaa holdings said: “These new locomotives, combined with the impact of our program to recondition existing locos and refurbish rolling stock, will have a transformative impact on the concession’s performance, doubling haulage capacity this fiscal year”.
He noted that Qalaa as a long term African Investment holding company shared the vision of both governments of building RVR into a robust and efficient transport and logistics provider that can boost regional growth and trade”.
Speaking on behalf of the financiers International Finance Corporation director for Eastern and Southern Africa Oumar Seydi said “As both a lender and shareholder in RVR, IFC welcomes the investment in locomotives which will improve freight capacity and operational efficiency. IFC remains committed to the turnaround of RVR as the railway network is a vital trade link, and once fully restored, will open up markets, create jobs and spur economic growth in East Africa”.
The arrival of the locomotives is the latest in a series of projects RVR has recently launched aimed at improving railway operations, In July, RVR commissioned two high capacity railway track maintenance machines that automate and hasten track restoration. While in August the company of took delivery of a state of the art rail simulator which will be used to train and improve the skills of RVR train drivers.
The company in partnership Government of Uganda and KCCA is set to launch revival of train passenger services in the capital Kampala, and several thousand evictions have been effected along various railways lines in the city, to this effect.