East African Railway Master Plan

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Schematic map of African railways by gauge, with the member countries of the East African Master Plan in white – U/C means: under construction

The East African Railway Master Plan is a proposal for rejuvenating the railways serving Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda and adding railways to serve Rwanda and Burundi. The objective is to further the economic development of eastern Africa by increasing the efficiency and speed, and lowering the cost, of transporting cargo between major ports on the Indian Ocean coast and the interior.

All new railways will be standard-gauge, and existing narrow-gauge railways will be rehabilitated. The plan accounts for break of gauge issues and aims for a good interoperability within the resulting hybrid railway network. A later step would expand the eastern Africa railway network to South Sudan, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo).[1] The plan is managed by infrastructure ministers from participating East African Community countries in association with transport consultation firm CPCS Transcom Limited.[2]

New railways[edit]

The members of the Northern Corridor Integration Project (NCIP) have agreed to build all of their railways to the Chinese National Railway Class 1 standard. The Central Corridor / Dar es Salaam-Isaka-Kigali/Keza-Musongati Railway Project countries (Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi) have selected the Chinese Class 2 standard and/or the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association standard.[3]

New railways between and within the core countries of the Master Plan[edit]

Country Railway Gauge Electrification[4] Signaling[4] Status
Kenya Mombasa–Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
(Northern Corridor Integration Projects)
Uncertain.[5][6] automatic block Fully operational with diesel haulage.
Nairobi–Malaba Standard Gauge Railway none
(25kV 50Hz AC proposed,
but no funding yet)
under construction (SGR phase 2A)[when?]
Uganda Uganda Standard Gauge Railway proposed
Tanzania Tanzania Standard Gauge Railway 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
(Central Corridor / DIKKM projects)
25kV 50Hz AC automatic block under construction
Tanzania Isaka–Kigali Standard Gauge Railway commencement phase[when?]
Tanzania Keza–Musongati Railway proposed
Rwanda Kigali–Kampala Standard Gauge Railway proposed

New railway links from Master Plan core countries to other countries[edit]

In addition to the railways mentioned above, there are ideas for new standard-gauge railway lines under the plan.[7] They are by definition international lines between Master Plan countries and third countries. But the table in the following also contains domestic railway lines within third countries, as it is possible to connect to these railways through railways featured by the Master Plan.

Country Railway Gauge Electrification[4] Signaling[4] Status
Ethiopia Nairobi–Addis Ababa Railway 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
unknown unknown Lamu Port and Lamu-Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor
Kenya Lamu–Juba Railway
Kisumu–Juba Railway
South Sudan
Uganda Malaba–Juba Railway proposed
South Sudan
Uganda Kampala–Kisangani Railway
DR Congo

Existing railways[edit]

The Eastern African Railway Master Plan is not only taking new standard-gauge railways under the Master Plan into account, but also existing colonial era narrow-gauge railways, including Lake Victoria train ferries and pre-existing standard-gauge railways. It is planned to "rehabilitate" and to use some of the existing narrow-gauge railways in addition to the new standard-gauge railways as to provide additional routes for cargo transports. For the break of gauge handling between the different railway gauges, see below. Only railways relatively close to the new railway network are shown in the table.

Country Railway Gauge Electrification Status
DR Congo Vicicongo line 600 mm (1 ft 11 58 in) no mostly out of use
East Africa Lake Victoria ferries 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) no somewhat operational
Kenya Kenya Railways Corporation lack of maintenance, partially out of use
Uganda Uganda Railways Corporation
Tanzania Tanzania Railways Limited lack of maintenance, partially operational
Tanzania TAZARA Railway 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in) lack of maintenance, somewhat operational
South Sudan Babanusa-Wau Railway minimally operational
DR Congo Great Lakes Railway not operational
Djibouti Addis Ababa–Djibouti Railway 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) 25kV 50Hz AC operational
Ethiopia Awash–Weldiya Railway
Weldiya–Mekelle Railway
under construction
Burundi no railways
Rwanda no railways

Break of gauge handling and passenger transfer[edit]

The combination of railways with different track gauges into a hybrid railway network requires measures to make the different railways interoperable despite the break of gauge problem. In East Africa, this applies to the new standard-gauge railway network and to the old and eventually rehabilitated narrow-gauge railway network. Two methods exist within the East African Railway Master Plan countries, break of gauge handling and passenger transfers.

Break of gauge handling of cargo always needs to consider the much lower axle loads and different loading gauges on the narrow-gauge railway network. Therefore, the East African Railway Master Plan considers the new standard-gauge railways to become the backbone of the whole hybrid railway network, with narrow-gauge railways assuming the role of branch lines.

Break of gauge handling is usually done in dedicated break of gauge railway stations. The only existing break of gauge railway station within the reaches of the East African Railway Master Plan is the break of gauge transshipment station at Kidatu in Tanzania, which uses cranes for the transshipment of goods, especially containers, between the TAZARA Railway network (1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in)) and the Tanzania Railways Ltd. network (1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in)). New break of gauge handling stations are to be constructed between the standard-gauge railway backbone and eventually rehabilitated narrow-gauge branch lines. As of September 2018, no actively planned break of gauge railway stations are in consideration.

Another method is to build a railway station of the standard-gauge railway in the immediate vicinity to an old railway station of the narrow-gauge railway network – which then allows passenger transfers between both railway stations. There is only one example for that as of September 2018. The Nairobi Terminus railway station of the new Mombasa–Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway is located in the southern Nairobi suburb of Syokimau just opposite of the Syokimau Terminus of the Nairobi rail service, a narrow-gauge commuter rail service linking Syokimau with Nairobi Central Station and the Nairobi Central Business District.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Zeddy Sambu (29 April 2008). "East Africa: Countries Move to Upgrade Railway Network". Business Day. Retrieved 14 February 2018 – via Ocnus.net.
  2. ^ Gashegu Muramira (20 April 2009). "East Africa: EAC Railway Master Plan to Be Redesigned". Rwanda: New Times. Retrieved 13 May 2014.
  3. ^ "Information about Standard Gauge Railway" (PDF). Uganda Ministry of Works, Transportation and Communication. 7 April 2017. Date found at introductory page: http://www.newvision.co.ug/new_vision/news/1450522/information-about-standard-gauge-railway
  4. ^ a b c d "Information about Standard Gauge Railway" (PDF). Uganda Ministry of Works, Transportation and Communication. 7 April 2017. See also New Vision: http://www.newvision.co.ug/new_vision/news/1450522/information-about-standard-gauge-railway
  5. ^ "Kenya drops bid for electric SGR trains". Business Daily. 25 January 2018. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  6. ^ "Ketraco signs Sh24b deal to power electric SGR trains". Standard Media. 6 February 2018. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  7. ^ "Map of Proposed New East African Railway System". BBC News. Retrieved 13 May 2014.