(eTN) – Information is circulating in Kampala that following the recent re-signing of the Rift Valley Railways (RVR) concession, which reportedly granted the company the dormant routes from Kampala to Kasese and more importantly also to Gulu in Northern Uganda, promoters of the Southern Sudan railway link may now opt for a direct rail link with Kenya via Lokichoggio.
The south of the Sudan will hold an independence referendum on January 9 next year, and if, as widely expected, the population votes for separation from the north, the new country will be in urgent need to create infrastructure links to their southern neighbors, through which territory most, if not all, of their imports and exports would then be routed.
A direct rail link between the Southern Sudan and Kenya would also give Kenya a competitive edge over Uganda, as goods from the region’s main Indian Ocean port in Mombasa and from the planned new harbor in Lamu, could then be transported directly to the South Sudan without having to go via Uganda.
There were, in the past, indications that the rail link would route from Juba via Nimule and Gulu to Tororo, the border station between Uganda and Kenya, but if the latest information proves to be correct, not only would RVR have a substantially greater and much more expensive task ahead of them to revive the presently dormant Gulu line, but also to secure the consent of the Southern Sudanese government to expand their line to Juba. This is even more of a factor considering that RVR seems to favor the narrow gauge for this particular route, while the Southern Sudan is committed to building a standard gauge railway line to the Kenyan coast allowing for substantially higher speeds and carrying capacity, all crucial in this day and age to attract cargo and passenger traffic away from the roads.