This effectively cuts off 600 kilometres that truck drivers would have to drive if they were to pick the goods directly from Mombasa port.
Kenya said in a statement on Friday that some of the cargo will move on the old metre-gauge railway directly to Tororo in eastern Uganda or Kampala, while fuel will be transported by pipeline to Kisumu, Kenya and thereafter by water on Lake Victoria to Portbell in Luzira, Kampala or Jinja.
Truck drivers have been seen as a weak link to spreading coronavirus and partner countries are trying to devise means to reduce their contact with the community. The issue of truckers is threatening to cause a diplomatic spat between EAC community members.
Exports will also, be required to move by rail – whether the containers are full or empty. Kenya has directed that drivers will drive up to Naivasha inland port and then the exports will be moved by rail to Mombasa.
While it is meant to control contact with truck drivers, it could also mean a chance for the region to try the possibility of transferring all cargo to rail. Kenya tried but truck owners had protested the move saying it was taking them out of business.
For the fuel and other cargo owners, rail transportation cuts on the cost and risk involved with road transport. Uganda was already transporting some fuel products by water. Last year, the country said it had completed a 14-tank storage facility in Entebbe to store 70 million litres of fuel.
Uganda President Yoweri Museveni has promised to revive Uganda’s old railway and construction of a new one with funding expected from China and the European Union (EU).