New lease of life for Rift Valley Railways as training goes high tech


(Posted 16th October 2014)

Rift Valley Railways, the concessionaire in both Uganda and Kenya of the narrow gauge railway system, yesterday launched their latest innovation, a state of the art simulator on which train drivers can be trained and re-trained from the classroom rather than on locomotives, apart from the final test drive not too dissimilar to what airline pilots go through.

The company spent a staggering 160 million Kenya Shillings on the equipment and a number of new recruits will begin to train immediately to be ready when the remaining 17 of 20 brand new locomotives are delivered to RVR over the next couple of months, and many more come out of a refurbishment programme under which old locos are completely overhauled.

The software in fact includes a complete run of the line from Mombasa to Kampala, giving trainee drivers a detailed insight of what to expect on the track vis a vis a ‘virtual journey’.

RVR had over the past 18 months undertaken significant changes by improving key sections of the main rail line but also by launching an automated train and cargo monitoring system which helped to improve efficiencies and increase productivity, now taken to new levels vis a vis training.

Come Monday will another chapter be turned when the three recently imported new GE locomotives will be formally launched in Kampala at the Kampala Railway Station, serving notice that inspite of much talk of the new Standard Gauge Railway the present line will remain in business and continue to grow. Incoming board chairman, Dr. Titus Naikuni, in fact said as much during a meeting last week in Nairobi when he named improving efficiencies and increasing train loads to the maximum limit of 2.000 tons per train, will be high on the agenda as the company aims to raise volumes over and above the targets set under the concession agreement.

Dr. Naikuni will take to the helm of RVR’s board of directors officially at the end of the month and the principal shareholders, Qalaa Holdings of Egypt, are thought to have landed the best possible candidate to help turn the existing rail system into a money spinner. RVR certainly is a company to watch, and while passenger trains are not high on the agenda, the main interest of the company is in cargo transportation, will in time to come the passenger trains perhaps make a comeback of sorts, if for nothing else but to promote nostalgia and attract train buffs from across the world who wish to travel on what used to be the ‘Iron Snake, aka Lunatic Express’.

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