State-owned Kenya Railways (KR) has announced plans to build a new US$4bn rail line from Kenya to Uganda, replacing the existing century-old metre gauge rail line with a high-capacity standard gauge line.

KR said the process of building the line has already begun and it has advertised for financiers.

The new line would connect Kenya’s coastal city of Mombasa with the country’s Western border with Uganda in Malaba across the Great Lakes region.

The rail line is aimed at meeting the rising transport demands through Mombasa port, which is expected to reach 30 million tonnes by 2030 from 17 million tonnes.

KR expects at least 4,000t of cargo to be moved by freight trains over 1km long operating at 120kph on the new line. Passenger trains will run at 160kph.

Under the plan, three different rail lines to connect the entire region will be built: the Mombasa-Nairobi-Kisumu-Malaba line, Lamu-Juba line and the Nairobi-Addis Ababa line.

KR expects feasibility studies to be finished by March 2011, investors to come onboard by July 2011 and construction work to begin by November 2011.

The 500km Nairobi-Mombasa section and the Nairobi-Kisumu section are expected to be finished by 2013 and extensions to Malaba in 2016.