Awards 2001 The P&O Nedlloyd Award for Infrastructure

The P&O Nedlloyd Award for Infrastructure

This award is given to a company or organisation which has assisted economic and social development through the provision of appropriate, sustainable and environmentally complementary transport systems or infrastructure.

The Winner: Bombardier Transportation UK Ltd with the Uganda Railways Corporation


The locomotive workshop at Kampala, managed by Bombardier for a joint venture with Uganda Railways, is the best industrial workshop in East Africa, says its Canadian managing director, Douglas Serroul. "I would even put it up against a great many European workshops. And it is entirely the staff's doing. Bombardier simply provided them with the encouragement and support to believe in themselves. It taught them the value that each individual has towards the creation of a successful company."

The 100 staff have grown as people, he says. "They understand their roles better. They feel good about themselves and what they have accomplished thus far. They are also a much happier group. At the start of the joint venture, our absenteeism rate was 7 or 8 per cent. Now it is usually around 1 per cent. We have not had one lost-time accident in the past year. People enjoy coming to work."

Uganda Railways is a nationalised, mainly freight enterprise serving importers and exporters in the south-east of the country between Kampala and Kenya. It ran its workshop at Nalukolongo, on the west side of Kampala, with financial help from the German agency KfW (Credit Office for Reconstruction). But KfW was keen for it to find a private manager, so that rail managers could concentrate on running railways. Adtranz, since taken over by Bombardier of Canada which is now the world's largest rolling stock group, was chosen. Most of Uganda's locomotives were Henschel diesels, which Adtranz made.

Three years after the joint venture was launched, four in five locomotives are available for work at any given time. The figure used to be under three in five. The average time between engine failures has risen from 800 hours to over 4,000. Nalukolongo is also doing five times as much business for outside customers as it did in the past. What was once a cost centre has become a profit centre. Except for the first year, the Nalukolongo workshop has been profitable and has issued sizeable dividends to its shareholders.

Higher efficiency, and better organised holdings of spare parts, are saving Uganda money. Nalukolongo is the first African railway workshop outside South Africa to achieve the internationally recognised ISO 9002 standard.

Bombardier is transferring technologies to Uganda. The best example is a shop for rewinding electric motors, which saves Uganda Railways from having to import new. It also provides a fresh source of motors for other local enterprises. Nalukolongo did some rewinding in the past but lacked the proper skills and equipment. Now, says Douglas Serroul, "we provide a one-year warranty for our rewound motors, which is unheard of in Africa. We have also been approached by local colleges and foreign funding agencies to provide training for students in this field."

Another innovation is a training programme called 'mission-directed work teams'. Workers learn to make their own decisions as team members and put into practice their own ideas for higher standards and more efficient working.

Historically, the railways of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania were all part of one system. Nalukolongo is intended to be a regional centre and has tendered to repair Kenyan locomotives.

In January, Nalukolongo managers are meeting MTZ to discuss technical training for non-government organisations. For example, says Douglas Serroul, "we would train villagers in how to maintain their maize mills and agricultural implements. In a society such as this, it is important that a large international corporation such as ours displays a sense of community involvement."

Bombardier's base at Crewe, then part of ABB, won a Worldaware business award in 1994 for refurbishing locomotives in Kenya and elsewhere.

The Judges say

One of the major challenges in this sector is to initiate and maintain successful joint ventures. This excellent example is doubly impressive, set as it is in the challenging environment of Uganda, which is plagued by poor communications, geographical and economic obstacles, and a culture based on discarding rather than economic repair. The sustainability of the project, the statistical improvements to efficiency, the plans to expand, the inspiration given to the private sector and the commitment to modernise development in Uganda are all extremely impressive. It has provided employment and extensive workshop training, which has transformed work ethics and efficiency in local industry. The venture has notably contributed to the Ugandan economy through taxes and by reducing the needs for subsidies and further capital investments by improving the condition and serviceable life of the locomotives, which has released more public resources for poverty alleviation.

An update on Uganda Railways

Uganda Railways Corporation, PO Box 7150, Kampala, Uganda
Tel: +256 41 254 961 Fax: +256 41 344 405