The Minister for Works and Transport, General Edward Katumba Wamala has issued a ‘shoot on sight’ order targeting vandals stealing rail sleepers and materials used for the ongoing repair of the meter-gauge railway-MGR.
In February this year, the government contracted China Road and Bridge Corporation-CRBC to rehabilitate the railway line covering the 250km route from Malaba to Namanve at Shillings 185 billion.
Two spots under the emergency rehabilitation program were selected to address the accident-prone areas as a trial within a period of ten months on the route. The two sections are Mukono-Kawolo in Buikwe and between Tororo and Malaba.
While inspecting the progress of the works at Kyetume in Mukono on Friday evening, Gen. Katumba revealed that they have deployed soldiers at the section between Kyetume and Kawolo in Lugazi to stop the theft of vital materials from the railway line.
According to Gen. Katumba, unpatriotic people target sleepers and rails for sale to aluminum companies while locals target ballasts such as gravel stones for local construction.
The Chief Civil Engineer in the Ministry of Works, Geoffrey Obara says that the works have been challenged with vandalism and human activities along the corridor since several residents use it as a path to various destinations. Eng. Obara says thieves not only target sleepers but also rails since they are heavy.
Each rail laid per meter weighs 40kgs and its material is desired by several steel companies. He notes that locals think these gravel stones are just put for formality and collect them for use in their homes not knowing that they serve a very important role in forming a strong bed for the rails and sleepers.
The CRBC Project Manager, Dai Dexin says the physical work accomplished is 64 percent and they expect to complete the works within the coming three months and hand over the project to the government.
Benon Kajuna, the Director for Transport at the Ministry of Works says that once the scheme is complete, it shall help much in the transportation of goods from Mombasa port to Uganda. Kajuna notes that the kilometers under rehabilitation shall be linked to the standard gauge railway-SGR in Naivasha via the Malaba-Naivasha MGR, which is also under rehabilitation by the Kenyan government.
He also notes that they are looking forward to quickly increasing the cargo tonnage moving by railway to at least 60,000 tonnes per month.