By Philip Wafula
The Uganda Railways Corporation (URC) says it has worked out a blueprint to fight vandalism and theft of its infrastructure, which has seen sleepers and rails targeted for sale while ballasts such as gravel stones are used for local construction.
On March 13, the URC said a section of the Kampala-Mukono railway line will be closed to passengers and cargo business for six months to enable reconstruction works.
However, vandals have continued to target rail sleepers and materials, prompting General Edward Katumba Wamala, the Minister for Works and Transport, last year to issue a “shoot on sight” order targeting vandals.
But as the exercise starts on April 3rd, Eng Robert Kafeero Ssekitoleko, a URC board member and chairman of the technical committee, says they are going to use concrete as opposed to steel sleepers.
Kafeero explains that they have been using nuts that were easily opened by anyone, but now these anti-vandal fasteners will have an Allen key and Allen wrench or a simple driver for bolts or screws that have heads with internal hexagonal sockets.
According to Eng Ssekitoleko, the nuts will only be opened using an Allen key for that particular route and given to a specific official, such that if they find the sleepers missing, that official will be tasked to explain because they are the only person with the key.
Given the amount of traffic, Eng Ssekitoleko said they anticipate the refurbished railway to last for 60 years, although its design life is more than 100 years.
While construction of the Kampala-Namanve section will kick off next week and end in September 2023, the Namanve-Mukono section will follow and run for seven months from October to April 2024. However, sections like Mukono-Malaba, Port Bell-Kampala, Mwanza-Kisumu and Jinja-Kisumu-Port Bell will continue to serve its freight customers.
He added that not much will be lost because the water will be working, through which other clients will keep bringing in their cargo that terminates in Mukono, while for other bulk transporters, their cargo will terminate in Jinja.