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Work finally set to begin on 571km Isaka-Kigali railway
Tanzania and Rwanda will next month begin work on the Isaka-Kigali railway project in a development that has put the proposed Mombasa-Kigali standard gauge railway plan in limbo.
This follows the completion of the design and feasibility study as well as the imminent naming of a contractor for the railway that links Isaka town in Tanzania with the Rwandan capital Kigali.
On completion, the 571-kilometre Isaka-Kigali SGR is expected to improve trade between the two countries by easing movement of passengers and cargo across the common border.
The Isaka-Kigali railway project will cost an estimated Sh250 billion ($2.5 billion). Tanzania will seek a loan to fund the Isaka-Rusumo segment of the railway, while Rwanda will adopt a public-private partnership model for its stretch of the line.
During a state visit to Tanzania in January Rwanda President Paul Kagame and his host John Magufuli directed their ministers to meet and deliberate the fast-tracking of the railway project.
“President Kagame and I want to unveil the foundation stone to usher the construction this year,” he added. “[We] are ready to look for loans to speed up the construction,” President Magufuli said.
Tanzania has already started work in two phases on a railway line from Dar es Salaam to Morogoro spanning 330 kilometres, and from Morogoro to Makutupora in Dodoma covering 426 kilometres, using locally sourced funds totalling about Sh315 billion ($3.15 billion).
Rwanda was originally part of a 1,500-kilometre railway running from Mombasa to Kigali through Kampala but the country later abandoned the plan, although it did not issue any official statement on the matter.
Shorter and cheaper
In May 2016, the Kenyan media quoted Rwandan Minister for Finance and Economic Planning Claver Gatete as saying that Kigali had opted out of the project in favour of the “shorter and cheaper” Tanzania route.
Rwanda estimated that it will cost Sh100 billion to build the railway on the Kenyan route and Sh80 billion to Sh90 billion on the Tanzanian route.
The report sparked panic among Kenyan government officials, especially since it came shortly after Uganda said it would build a pipeline for its oil through Tanzania rather than Kenya.
This prompted the Transport secretary James Macharia to announce that Kenya would build its railway up to Kisumu or Naivasha as extension of the line to Malaba would no longer be necessary if landlocked states pulled out.
However, in a swift attempt to save the situation executive director of Northern Corridor Transit and Transport Coordination Authority Donat Bagula issued a statement to clarify that the media had misquoted the minister. He said Rwanda was still on course to link its railway to Mombasa.
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