Uganda Railways Corporation (URC) has finally taken over rail from Rift Valley Railways Limited. In a press statement, Charles Abooki Kateeba, the Managing Director of Uganda Railways Corporation, says all rail freight and passenger operations are now under the control of URC.
This follows a decision by the Uganda government to terminate the RVR concession to operate railway services in Uganda in October last year following a similar move by Kenya. The governments of Uganda and Kenya contracted RVR, majority-owned by Egyptian equity firm Qalaa Holdings, to operate the 2,353-kilometre Kenya-Uganda railway line for 25 years.
Like in Kenya, Uganda accuses RVR of failing to live up to the terms of the concession, including non-payment of concession fees amounting to US$ 8.5 million equivalent to 31 billion Shillings. RVR is also said to be debt-ridden, owing hundreds of millions of dollars to lenders like the African Development Bank, German Development Bank, Infrastructure Crisis Facility, and Equity Bank.
Others debtors are the International Finance Corporation, Dutch Development Bank, and Belgian Investment Company for Developing Countries, among others. In the take-over statement, Uganda Railways Corporation informs all customers and the general public that all the permanent way, rolling stock, stations and terminals, workshops and maintenance depots, machinery, plant and equipment, market power and operating rights of all assets that RVR was controlling have reverted to URC.
The statement adds that URC shall not be responsible for any debts, liabilities incurred and/or contracts entered into between RVR and any individual, company, suppliers or contractors, or any other third party. According to government, arrangements are underway to restore normal freight immediately and passenger operations by 10th February, 2018.
Henceforth, says URC, all freight customers and clients of RVR are advised to deal directly with URC, warning that "Rift Valley Railways or its agents are not authorized to carry on railway services in Uganda".