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EAC to revitalise railway network

 Partner states of the East African Community (E AC) will hold a two-day conference here next week with development partners to look into ways of revitalizing the dilapidated East African railways, once the backbone of the region’s transport backbone.

The regional conference, with the theme â~Revitalizing the Railways for Enhance d Regional Integration and Economic Growthâ?, is being organised by the EAC Secretariat in collaboration with the World Bank and the African Deve lopment Bank as part of the process of actualising the East African Railway Master Plan.

It is also meant to get synergy from other institutions on the way forward for t he dilapidated railway system in the region.

Participants at the conference, drawn from the public and private sectors and th e donor community, will include officials from the partner states ministries responsible for infrastructure development; the railway holding compa nies and concessionaires as well as transporters and freight forwarders; the EAC secretariat announced Thursday.

Preparation of the East African Railway Master Plan is a directive by the Summit of the EAC Heads of State for the development of a regional strategy to revamp the railways after decades of neglect and poor management, wh ich had severely eroded the dominant role of railways as the main conveyor of freight in the region.

Undertaken by CPCS Transcom of Canada, the master plan contains recommendations on what the region needs to do in order to revamp the railways system in the short, medium and long terms, and includes issues on traffic proje ctions, technical considerations, legal and institutional reforms and environmental mitigation measures.

In view of the financial implications of the master plan, the EAC Secretariat sa id it would hold the regional conference 11-12 March â?in order to drum up support from development partners and potential investors.â?

Tanzanian Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda will deliver a keynote address to the mee ting while CPCS Transcom president, Peter Kieran, is expected to make a presentation on the EAC Railway Master Plan with the view to provide an o verview of the study findings.

Kieran will also present the current financial and physical state of railways in the EAC as well as highlight the challenges related to enabling current rail operations from inter-modal competition to financial solvency and attractiveness to private operators.

Partner states â” Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda — are expected to highlight curre nt plans for existing and development of new railways and also comment on the master plan and appraise the conference on the country plans, their status, and how they fit in with the EAC Railway Master Plan including arrangements for financing.

The other two EAC member countries, Burundi and Rwanda, have no railways.

According to EAC officials, the conference will offer lessons learnt from rail c oncessions in sub-Sahara Africa.

Meanwhile, the Africa Infrastructure Country Diagnostic Report on African Railwa ys, sponsored by the World Bank, is to be unveiled at the conference.

The report provides an overview of the challenges facing railways in Africa, fro m unfair inter-modal competition to limited markets and poor governance and regu l ations.

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