Politics and policy
Sh1.45bn injection to speed up airport, city rail link plan
Commuters will soon have the option of boarding trains to and from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) after the government allocated Sh1.45 billion to lay a 6.5-kilometre railway line connecting the airport to Syokimau.
The project was initially expected to begin in July 2013 and be commissioned in December, but its inclusion in Thursday’s ministerial statement indicates that it will begin earlier.
The announcement comes less than a month after the completion of 2.2 kilometre railway line —the first to be laid in the country since the Second World War —linking the newly-built Syokimau station to the old Embakasi line.
A Syokimau-JKIA line will afford passengers a faster transport option, avoiding traffic snarl-ups common on Mombasa Road.
“This first phase of our commuter rail upgrade will enable our international guests and city residents commuting through Mombasa Road to access a faster, affordable and more comfortable service,” said Njeru Githae, the Finance minister.
Before the Syokimau line, Kenya had not built an inch of railroad since the British colonialists constructed the Kisumu-Butere line in the 1930s.
The breakdown of the East African Community in 1977 marked the start of a slowdown in regional rail operations that has persisted to date.
The Nairobi railway projects are part of a larger Sh24 billion ($300 million) urban transport plan but their implementation has faced several hurdles, with funding being the main one.
“Despite huge resources dedicated toward infrastructure projects, their implementation continues to face challenges,” added Mr Githae.
In step with construction of a line to JKIA, the government has initiated talks with the Kenya Railways pension scheme to acquire six acres of land for the construction of a new station at the Nairobi Railway Station.
The land is currently being used as a car park and is situated next to the Easy Coach Bus Company.
Transport Minister Amos Kimunya said the new station will have larger capacity to handle a projected surge in passengers as well as modern baggage checking points.
“The new station will have secure terminals to be used by passengers going to board planes ensuring that once your luggage is checked, you are later only subjected to minimal checks at the airport,” said Mr Kimunya, while inspecting the Syokimau station and line to be commissioned by President Kibaki by August.
The Nairobi urban transport master-plan has three other new railway stations on the cards.
They will be built on Jogoo Road’s Makadara estate, Mombasa Road’s Imara Daima whose construction is ongoing and Nairobi’s Moi Avenue.