September 17, 2013 (KAMPALA) - A key rail route that has been dysfunction for the last 20 years has been opened with the first train arriving on Saturday in the northern Uganda town of Gulu, about 120 km from the Uganda –South Sudan border.
The railway line is expected to boost exports to South Sudan and Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
The first train arrived in Gulu for the first time in two decades with a cargo of steel from the Kenyan port of Mombasa destined for Juba, South Sudan.
The 500 kms line has been renovated at a cost of US$ 2 million by the rail operator, Rift Valley Railway (RVR).
Cosmas Gatere an official of RVR said of the opening of the route: "This new service will play a vital role in promoting regional integration and trade by accessing areas hitherto closed to rail transportation."
The opening of the route has been welcomed by freight companies.
"We are excited by the logistical options the opening of the line presents through combinations of rail and last-mile road delivery both for imports and exports. We will now be able to provide more efficient cargo transport to customers along routes in northern Uganda, eastern DRC and South Sudan, and avoid long trips by roads", said Heinz Mueller, Managing Director, Spedag Interfreight, a leading freight and forwarding company in East Africa.
South Sudan has since 2007 been Uganda’s leading trade partner, according to the World Bank. The re-opening of the railway to northern Uganda is viewed as an attempt to harness trade benefits between the two countries.