Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Initially, the plan was to have a double track on major civil engineering structures like bridges as this would save the country future costs in expansion/ augmentation of the railway system, but deeper analysis found that:
  • The economic viability is highly dependent on the investment costs and revenue forecasts, so any redundancy increases initial cost of investment, limiting the viability (IRR and NPV) which are key parameters when looking for financing. Therefore, a decision was taken to develop single track which is required on commencement of train operation in order to achieve positive IRR acceptable to the Bank
  • The technology may have changed by that time and that would necessitate different types of bridges since the loads and speeds are a function of design. For example, in future we may desire to build trains above 120Kph therefore would require a different bridge.

a) Cable bridges are not commonly used for freight railways due to challenges associated with heavy loads, dynamic loading and other design difficulties.
b) There is need to use designs and technology that have been widely used and tested over time to preclude the risk of structural failure associated with new technologies and designs.
c) For the given span and loading, an arch bridge is the most economically feasible bridge for the proposed SGR Nile bridge.

 The proposed SGR is majorly designed for freight and all major design parameters are for freight railways.
• In the SGR protocol, it was agreed that we limit the speed of passenger trains to 120kph and freight to 100kph for the sake of affordability and feasibility given the level of development and economies.
• Throughout the world most freight trains operate at speeds of 80-120kph because higher speeds require very heavy locomotives that may not be available on the market
• Throughout the world, freight trains are not as fast as passenger trains because they are heavier and longer whereas passenger trains are lighter and shorter. There are design and operational justifications for this norm.
• The SGR is mainly designed for freight. Passenger services are only an added advantage. The major design considerations are based on freight train requirements.
• This is in conformity with China class 1 railways where the speeds can be 160kph, 140kph or 120 kph. Given that we have hilly terrain, it was prudent to choose 120kph for passengers. Besides in mixed railways, if the passenger speeds are higher, it reduces the transport capacity as cargo trains have to give way for passenger trains.

  • Although the preliminary engineering (by Gauff Consultants) had proposed 60kg/m, the NCIP SGR protocol required us to use 50kg/m.
  • The Chinese standards TB 10082-2005 code for design of railways track specify that if speeds are 120kph and tonnage between 15-25 million tones (converted density volume), the 50kg/m is sufficient.
  • The formula for sizing rails clearly show that 50kg/m is appropriate from the scientific point of view.
  • The rail size (weight per meter length) is determined primarily by the axle load (other factors include traffic density, speeds etc.). The NCIP regional SGR axle loading is 25 tons which requires a 50kg/m rail.
  • The wear and tear on these rails is a function of traffic density. The traffic density of Mombasa – Nairobi will be much higher than that of Malaba – Kampala, which is why Kenya decided to use larger 60kg/m rails. About 70% of the Mombasa port traffic is destined for Nairobi area.

a)     The 50kg/m rail section is sufficient and cost effective for the projected traffic bearing in mind that rails wear and tear and are replaceable.

b)    As good practice, rails are replaced after they have worn out and lost 5% of the weight.

c)     Generally the rails constitute about 1.3% of the cost per route-Km.

d)    50kg/m rail is a common rail section used in China and therefore replacement rails are easily available.


  • A joint team of Uganda and Kenya technocrats undertook a study to China and India on this matter and these are the key highlights:

a)     Energy consumption during operations is about 8.82Kwh per 1000 Gross ton Kilometer (GTKM) and 2.5L per 1000 GTKM for electric and diesel traction respectively. Based on the current cost of diesel and electricity in Uganda, it is cheaper to operate an electric locomotive.

b)    Currently, China manufactures 6,000KW, and 7,200KW electric locomotives on 25 tonne axle load. A single electric locomotive will haul 4,000 tonnes compared to two diesel locomotives rated at 3,750KW required for the same load.

c)     The cost of maintenance of diesel locomotive is 30-40% higher than the cost of maintenance of electric locomotives.

d)    The electric traction system is eco-friendly in terms of carbon emissions, noise pollution, suitable as mitigation measures for climate change

e)     Importantly, China and India, with about 75% of the global railway network are systematically upgrading from diesel traction to electric traction. In order to access affordable spare parts, technology and skills, it is important to follow the global trends.

f)     Kenya’s construction is reserved for upgrading to electric traction which means that in future they will operate electric traction system.

g)    Electrification has higher investment costs (approx. USD0.55m/route-km) but lower operation and maintenance costs.

a)     There are several contracting modes available including Force account, Design-Bid-Build, Design & Build, and Engineering-Procurement & Construction/Turnkey etc. 

b)    The choice of the contracting mode depends on risk allocation, complexity and efficiency are some the major parameters that are used to determine the mode of contracting preferred. Notably, for system like the railway, the various system components (civil, electro-mechanical, mechanical and signal, telecom engineering components) must be engineered, procured, manufactured, installed, synchronized and tested simultaneously.

c)     Internationally FIDIC/ EPC- Turnkey contractual mode is preferred for complex and large magnitude engineering systems, like the railway. This was and is currently being used for railway projects in Ethiopia and Kenya

d)    The EPC/Turnkey is a contracting mode where the employer provides functional requirements and the contractor undertakes to design, procure and construct, manufacture, install and test the system to the given requirements by the Employer. The performance of the EPC/Turnkey contract depends on the fulfillment of the functional requirements as agreed by both parties and ultimately the functionality of the system.

e)     The main advantages include:

i)      The contractor bears the design, procurement and construction risks so no addenda arising from design inadequacies are entertained. These addenda cause interruptions to the business programing of such projects.

ii)    It’s a lump sum contract with predictable and fixed price.

iii)  In most cases, they are completed on time compared to other modes of contracting.  

iv)  Most financiers prefer this mode due to predictable price and completion time which adversely can affect the viability of the project

v)    The major challenge is that there are no detailed designs and detailed bills of quantities thus hard to justify to the public that is used to design-bid-build and there is no available list of materials.

f)     The NCIP Summit directed that we use EPC/Turnkey contracts as the implementation mode.

g)    EPC/Turnkey contracting mode is a condition for application for financing to the China Exim Bank.

h)    During negotiations, the Government team relied on preliminary engineering study by Gauff Consultants, cost comparisons with Kenya and Ethiopia, reference rates from similar items from the UNRA roads contracts to come up with the negotiation basis. In the end the negotiated price was 20% lower than the submitted bid and 15% lower than the Gauff estimates.

i)      Because it is an electric traction system, continuous welded rails are used to avoid losses due to the gap between jointed rails.

ii)    Eliminate operational and maintenance costs occasioned by joints.

iii)  Substantially reduce vandalism which is common with jointed rails

iv)  Eliminate noise and discomfort generated by rail joints.

v)    Reduction in energy consumption caused by jointing

• Each train will carry 4,000 gross tonnes. This can be increased to 5000 tonnes. Each wagon can take 75 tonnes plus tare estimated at 25 tonnes. Therefore each wagon will be 100 tonnes.
• The tonnage can be increased with augmentation in the railway line in later years

i) The difference comes in the design load and dynamic loading. The railway bridges are designed based on anticipated heavy train loads as opposed to the vehicular loads. There are engineering considerations that are unique to the railways especially the dynamic loading, the vertical loads, the loading impacts etc.
ii) SGR axle loading is 25 tonnes and for the road is usually 8 tonnes.

i) The difference is in the structure gauge (height and width of the railway system), the design of the embankment, the formation width and specifications of materials, methodology of construction among others.
ii) Use of Chinese standards results in infrastructure that is more durable, more robust and that has higher safety margin.
iii) Over the last 30 years, China has built more railways than the rest of the world combined. Therefore, Chinese railway technology is proven in the industry.

• The Chinese Class I railway standards specify the chemical and physical standards of cement including the testing regime thereof and this applies to steel also. Importantly, Uganda has never built structures (including bridges) for such loading/weights. Therefore, the key materials must meet the design strength, durability and functionality. The railway is designed for 100 years.
• The Chinese standard for materials are linked to specific elements of the structure and class of railways.

  • Each passenger train will carry 960 passengers.
  • Each train will carry 4,000 gross tonnes.
  • The trains will move at speeds of 100Kph and 120kph for freight and passengers respectively.
  • The trains will be electric. Therefore no noise, more comfort and eco-friendly.
  • Time from Mombasa to Kampala will be 1 day
  • The cost will be reduced by two thirds to USD 1500 per container

Uganda SGR cost is comparable and cost effective. The cost is majorly dependent on the number of bridges/viaducts, the super large bridges like that over the Nile, the geotechnical conditions, the topography that must be attenuated to attain the right gradient.  There are 24 km of bridges planned and 53km in in swamps and soft grounds. The biggest challenge is not comparing likes for likes. Further information is available on the SGR website.

Government will put in place favorable transport policies that will attract freight from road to the railway. These policies will result in reduced cost of doing business and a favorable investment climate.

There will be job opportunities as well as works and services opportunities in sectors like supply of construction materials (cement, steel, gravel, aggregates etc.), legal, security services, petroleum products, consultancy services, vehicle hire among others.

Yes, we have an approved Local Content Strategy which will be a basis for the local content implementation. At least USD 700million will be spent locally in Uganda

We have signed a MoU with the contractor to undertake operations in the interim as we build capacity. As directed by the NCIP Summit, the Government will retain the responsibility of developing and maintaining the infrastructure while the operator will undertake the operations under specified performance requirements.

The costs per Km will depend on topography, geology and hydrology. However, the SGR cost for Kenya’s Mombasa-Nairobi section is comparable to that for Malaba-Kampala.

The exchange will take place at Malaba railway station on the Kenyan side.  This will require some electrification on the Kenyan side. It’s only the locomotive that will be changed. This may take less than 10 minutes.

In order to achieve the desired speed, efficiency and haulage, the design parameters especially horizontal curvature and vertical gradients, new right of way had to be obtained. Its approximately 20% of the existing railway corridor which be utilized by the SGR. It should be noted that SGR should provide quality of service that is globally competitive.

  1. As directed by H.E. the President of Uganda, the Government, through the Ministry of Works of Transport, continues to fast track the development of the SGR.
  2. The SGR is a transformational Project for Uganda that will not only stimulate industrialization, but provide the needed impetus to lift the country into a middle income country. Any delay will impact on the country significantly.
  3. Uganda is following the SGR Protocol and is developing China Class 1 Railway system.
  4. As ably demonstrated, the development cost of the Malaba-Kampala SGR is comparable to development cost of the other SGR projects in the region (Kenya and Ethiopia), taking into account the unique features along the route, especially the supper major bridge across the River Nile at Jinja and the expansive soils along the route.

Uganda has designed for China Class 1 at speed of 120kph for passengers. The speed for passengers for 120kph is both in class I and class II. However you should not that (i) you cannot use only one parameter to judge the difference between class I and class II. There are over 35 parameters which are different. (ii) The speed referred to is for passenger trains but the railway is majorly designed for cargo trains. The cargo trains speed varies that class II goes for 60/80 kph while class I is 80/100kph. Therefore Uganda as Kenya are building to China Class 1 railway standards at passenger speed of 120kph and cargo at 80/100kph.

  1. 1.     There are over 35 differences between class I chain railways and Class II china railway. These include classifications (role, speed, tonnage, trailing load, etc), safety (safety coefficient, level crossings), geometry (curvatures, gradients etc.), subgrade/ embankment treatment (width of top embankment, subgrade layer, settlement per year and total settlement, etc.), superstructure (Rails, fastener, bridge/ pier, axle load etc.) and ballast thickness and type. All these impact on investment cost and operation and maintenance costs.
  1. 1.     The traffic design capacity of the SGR is 30MT converted density volume or 48MT converted volume. The system can be augmented in future if traffic increases.


Standard Gauge Railway Uganda
Developing the Tororo-Kampala (Eastern) and Tororo -Amuru-Packwach (Northern) routes