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December 10, 2019
Rwanda -Tanzania railway line
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Construction of US$2.5 billion Rwanda -Tanzania railway line to go electric

Rwanda and Tanzania are reviewing the designs for the Isaka-Kigali standard gauge railway (SGR) line to accommodate electricity-driven locomotives  the fastest in East Africa.The construction phase of the SGR project is expected to positively and heavily impact on Rwanda’s construction sector through a number of ways.

“We want to have reduced travel time for both cargo and passengers on this line between Dar es Salaam and Kigali. In order to accommodate the efficiency for the railway, we have asked for a review of the feasibility studies to accommodate the electric element,”

said Rwanda’s Minister of State in charge of transport

Jean de Dieu Uwihanganye.

Mr Uwihanganye spoke in Kigali in early March 2018,   where he met his Tanzanian counterpart of Works, Transport and Communications, Makame Mbarawa.

The Isaka-Kigali line was launched in January 2018. By going electric, the two countries will give the Central Corridor a competitive edge over the Northern Corridor that runs through Kenya. Kenya’s SGR trains — launched in May last year and currently operate between Nairobi and Mombasa — run on diesel.

Rwanda and Tanzania are targeting passenger trains travelling at up to 160kph and cargo trains at up to 120kph. That compares with 120kph and 100kph for the Ethiopian electric rail, and 110kph and 80kph for the Kenya diesel line, respectively.

railway line
railway line

With the diesel option, the trains between Isaka and Kigali would have run at maximum speeds of 120kph for passengers and 80kph for cargo.

Kigali and Dar es Salaam intend to use open tenders for the design review in the hope of accommodating the most suitable financing option. This would break ranks with the government-to-government sourcing that Kenya and Uganda did with China for their section of the SGR. Kenya is now extending the line from Nairobi to Naivasha, a distance of about 120 kilometres.

It is expected that the winning bidder for the Isaka-Kigali line will do works, equipment and logistics mobilisation from August with an expected groundbreaking two months thereafter.

“We shall strive to follow existing laws and regulations governing public tenders, and according to the regulations, this will take us at least three months,”

said Mr Mbarawa.


However, the financing model could prove tricky given preferences by the two countries in the recent past.

“We have different financing models to choose from and I believe we will consider one that’s better for our people. At the moment, we can’t give a clear indication on what model we prefer as we haven’t gotten to that stage yet,”

said Mr Mbarawa.

It was agreed at the meeting between the Rwandan and Tanzania transport ministers and the implementing agencies, that the feasibility study should be reviewed and a project implementation unit established by July. Bids for contractors will then be floated with a ground-breaking target of October 2018.

From the previous design, the 1,320km SGR project is expected to cost the two countries $2.5 billion. Tanzania was expected to pay $1.3 billion while Rwanda was to raise $1.2 billion. However, the electric element incorporation is expected to increase these costs slightly.

The two countries are also pushing for a lower time frame in movement of goods to a maximum of 13 hours between Dar-es-Salaam and Kigali, and 10 hours for the passenger line.

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