Rehabilitation of the Kampala-Mukono rail line is progressing according to timelines, despite the refusal by some individuals to vacate the line’s reserve.
Currently, the exercise for the removal of the old line has reached the Banda area towards Kireka.
The Uganda Railways Corporation insists that the rehabilitation exercise will take 13 months despite some individuals refusing to vacate the gazetted areas.
“There are a few delays due to the refusal of some occupants of railway land to vacate 10 meters on either side of the line to allow for these machines to operate smoothly. Engagements with the locals are still ongoing,” says the corporation.
As early as last year, people operating along the line from Kampala to Mukono were requested to vacate 10 meters off the line from either side as one of the requirements for the contractor to operate smoothly.
At the Namanve station, which would act as a storage center, a bigger part of the land was required, and, according to URC, it is part of the public safety requirements.
“In addition to the smooth implementation of the works, the 10-meter space is to ensure that all residents are safe. We thus request all Ugandans operating in this space to comply with the requirement.”
Currently, the Namanve area has been secured and is being cleared of the illegal structures left.
“We erased the entire Namanve, and we are still removing structures,” said John Lennon Sengendo, Senior Communications Officer at URC.
Some residents in Nakawa Division along the railway have insisted that they have to be compensated before they vacate.
This position has been challenged by Wakiso District LCV Chairperson, Matia Lwanga Bwanika who reasoned that the people entered the land knowing that it belonged to someone else (URC) and therefore had no grounds to claim compensation.
However, others advise that URC finds money for the relocation of the encroachers though it may not be equivalent to their businesses, to ensure a smooth vacation exercise.
URC says it is not ready to compensate them, though they could be compensated if the government got the money.
“Many are still asking for compensation but we are not paying. Compensation will be done when the government secures the money,” said Sengendo.
He added that those with genuine claims like where the URC needed to extend beyond its reserve, may be compensated, while others were being resettled in some open spaces.
“Whoever refuses to leave, we break down the structures. Some of them are being moved to spaces that are free. Just a few, but most of them in the 10 meters are supposed to leave,” he said.
Removal of old rail material is still ongoing, with the removed rails loaded onto wagons and transported to the storage site in Namanve, for accountability purposes and to avoid them ending up in the illegal scrap market.
The company said that in the next seven months works on the Kampala – Namamve section will have been completed and passenger train service will resume then.
The works include replacing the metal rails with concrete sleepers, a move they said will curb vandalism, and increase speed capacity as well as durability.
“Seven kilometers of track panels have been assembled and another 7,000 sleepers are ready for assembling into panels,” said Benon Kajuna, the Director of Transport at URC while touring the Kawolo concrete sleeper factory.
Areas where the line has been successfully removed, like from Kampala to Nakawa, are being graded to prepare for the construction of the embankment on which the rail panels will be laid.
During construction of the concrete sleeper line, 12-meter panels, prefixed with 18 concrete sleepers, will be laid onto a new embankment, by machines.
Stone aggregates or ballast will be placed over the embankment and tamping (compressing) done.
“A line of this kind is more stable, facilitates increased speeds and reduces vandalism,” according to URC technicians.