PROPOSALS to develop a rail network serving Africa’s Great Lakes region have been unveiled by Uganda’s Ministry of Tourism, Trade & Industry, following a meeting of transport and communications ministers in the Common Market for Eastern & Southern Africa. Comesa has commissioned Makhosi Holdings of South Africa to undertake a feasibility study into several routes which were agreed by the ministers.

At the northern end, the project would start by reviving Uganda’s metre-gauge Kampala - Kasese line, which is currently out of service due to poor track condition. This would restore the link from Lake Victoria and the East African network to Lake Edward. A new line would be needed to link Lakes Edward and Kivu, and another would be required between Lakes Kivu and Tanganyika.

At the southern end, a third new line is planned to join Lake Tanganyika with the 1067mm gauge Tazara corridor, giving connections to the rest of Southern Africa. A branch would serve the Rwandan capital Kigali. The idea is that the lines would be developed by the private sector under a BOT formula.

As part of Comesa’s infrastructure programme, member states are required to draw up national programmes to address problems facing their railways. States are being encouraged to offer concessions to attract private sector capital for the development of new lines.

Another team of South African engineers has been engaged to carry out a feasibility study for an alternative rail link in Rwanda, running 150 km southeast from Kigali to Isaka, the nearest town on the Tanzanian rail network. This is the route of the existing road conveying rail traffic to and from Rwanda.