RVR receives three GE locomotives that will boost cargo haulage capacity



  • Locomotives are the first to have been purchased for commercial use on the Uganda – Kenya Railway in 27 years
  • RVR set to double its locomotive capacity with the arrival of another 17 over the next 8 months
  • Business community welcomes development as a game changer

The first three of 20 locomotives RVR purchased in a project aimed at doubling its freight haulage capacity arrived in Kampala today at a ceremony held at the central railway station.

The GE B23-7 locomotives which cost 64 Billion shillings were built by American industrial conglomerate General Electric, are equipped with a state of the art microprocessor control system that monitors the engine’s performance and boosts the load-carrying capacity by 20 per cent by optimizing the traction between the wheels and the railway track.

RVR’s Locomotive capacity has been growing steadily over the last 18 months through a combination of rehabilitation of existing locos and purchases.

The arrival of the Locomotives is considered to be a major milestone in the history of the concession and a further sign that the investments being made into the railway by RVR are beginning to register tangible results by delivering the much needed infrastructure and rolling stock required to turnaround the Kenya Uganda railway.

Eng. Michael Kamau, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Transport and Infrastructure noted last month at a ceremony in Mombasa to commission the GE locomotives that “since January 2013, RVR’s performance on freight haulage has seen a fairly steady rise mainly due to investment in railway track on the Mombasa-Nairobi section and the refurbishment of rolling stock”.

Highlighting the investments the shareholders have made in the Railway so far Charles Mbire a shareholder and company director noted that RVR has made significant capital injections aimed at improving both the commercial and operational side of the business resulting in reduced turnaround times and increased efficiencies. “Transit times between Mombasa and Kampala are now down by 40pc from November last year with one way trips Mombasa –Kampala now taking less than 4 days, our target is to cut this down further to approximately 2.2 days”.

Members of the business community who attended the ceremony welcomed the arrival of the Locomotives which regional economists believe will be a game changer in the East African transport sector given the additional capacity that will be available, this will provide more flexibility and the possibility of doing greater volumes business, eventually driving down transport prices and benefiting the rest of the regional economy.


Speech by Hon. John Byabagambi, Minister of State for Works

At inceptionceremony of the first three of 20 US built locomotives acquired by RVR

Monday 20th October 2014, Kampala Railway Station


Honourable Members of Parliament, the Managing Director of the Uganda Railways Corporation, representatives from Kenya Railways Corporation, Directors and Management of RVR present, representatives of RVR investors and lenders, ladies and gentlemen.

It gives me great pleasure to be here today to officiate at this ceremony to receive in Kampala the first three locomotives of a larger consignment of 20, purchased by Rift Valley Railways.

These 20 US-built locomotives, acquired at a cost of shillings 64 billion shillings, or 25 million dollars will help expand haulage of cargo on the Uganda – Kenya railway, and I am told will help double RVR’s freight cargo carrying capacity when the full consignment is delivered by April next year.

The investment is significant as it is the first major acquisition of railway locomotives to for the Kenya-Uganda railway in 27 years.[i]

This is a commendable achievement which cannot go unnoticed. It is a further sign that the investments being made into the railway by RVR are beginning to register tangible results and delivering the much needed improvements in infrastructure and rolling stock required to revitalise the Kenya – Uganda railway.

Ladies and gentlemen the value of a fully functional railway for Uganda and the region cannot be overstated. The trucks carrying heavy loads in and out of Uganda are exerting unsustainable pressure on our road infrastructure.

As government we are therefore very supportive of the efforts being made by RVR to improve railway services because we fully appreciate the direct impact an efficient railway system has on our overall transport network, and the impact that this, in turn, has on the growth of the economy of Uganda and indeed of the region.

I am also pleased to hear that, in order to ensure there is adequate capacity to maintain these locomotives and the other mechanized track maintenance equipment RVR has acquired, the RVR workshop at Nalukulongo has now achieved ISO certification in environmental management, safety and overall quality management.

I am also encouraged by comments from my counterpart, Eng. Michael Kamau, Cabinet Secretary for Transport and Infrastructure in Kenya who noted just a month ago at ceremony in Mombasa to commission these locomotives that since January 2013, RVR’s performance on freight haulage has seen a fairly steady rise mainly due to investment in railway track on the Mombasa-Nairobi section and the refurbishment of rolling stock.[ii]

The arrival of these locomotives holds the potential for further major increases in rail freight transportation and provision of logistics services by RVR for Uganda based importers and exporters. 

The growth in freight volume is a clear sign of the renewed confidence the business community has in the railway in the wake of these improvements in efficiencies and performance.

One notable example is that heavy steel coils for the construction industry in Uganda have begun being transported by rail on specially adapted wagons, helping decongest and protect our roads, while taking advantage of the many benefits of long distance haulage of heavy cargo by rail.[iii]

I would encourage other companies and operators to emulate this example and help support the government’s efforts to spreadthe transport load by getting more heavy freight off our overburdened roads.

I was also pleased to hear that last week RVR commissioned a train simulator in Nairobi to improve train driver performance and skills in safely handling locomotives. Rail safety and driver training are aspects that are often overlooked and the fact that RVR has made it a priority to ensure all its train drivers will get the opportunity to refresh and upgrade their skillsusing modern technologyis commendable.

In closing I would like to thank RVR’s investors and the lenders, our partners in this Public Private Partnership for your commitment to continue investing and working to turn around the railway company. The funding envelope you have committed of 746 billion shillings, or 287 million dollars over a 5 year period that begun towards the end of 2011, speaks eloquently of your resolve to make this partnership succeed.

I wish you every success as you continue to roll out your investment and improvement plans.

Thank you and I wish you all a pleasant rest of the day.

[i]Last purchase of locomotives by Kenya Railways Corporation was in 1987.

[ii]From formal speech of Eng. Michael Kamau (attached) delivered at commissioning ceremony

[iii]RVR signed a partnership in June with Roofings Rolling Mills to transport 23-ton steel coils on specially adapted flat wagons. Each full train carries 1,250 tons of steel, the equivalent of 40 truckloads.