Chinese firm says nearly 20,000 Kenyans working on rail project


Ongoing construction works of the standard gauge railway in Voi on March 15. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU

Nearly 20,000 Kenyans are working on the 472km Mombasa-Nairobi standard gauge railway (SGR) project with general labourers picked from the local areas to spread the benefits to the rural counties.

The contractor, China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), says that it has hired 19,858 Kenyans who are working alongside 2,000 Chinese management and technical personnel.

The Sh327 billion project is expected to be completed by June next year offering faster and cheaper means of transport for cargo and passengers between the two cities.

“The project releases recruitment information and holds job fairs in the locality, drawing residents from neighbouring communities into railway construction,” CRBC said.

“Project management interviews and hand-picks the potential employees recommended by local county governments.”

Of the Kenyan employees in the project, 4,690 are technical staff, 907 are in management and 14,261 are general workers.

CRBC says that 6,430 are employed by its sub-contractors and a further 2,424 have been hired as security workers.

Kenyans were promised 30,000 jobs under the SGR, making the project one of the biggest employers over the course of the three-year construction period.

An announcement in 2014 that the project would see 5,000 Chinese employed in the project was heavily criticised forcing the contractor to scale down the number to 2,500.

READ: Chinese staff for standard gauge rail halved to 2,500

With more Kenyans having gained the skills in this project, there is likely to be a push for a higher local hiring quota during the implementation of the second phase of the project between Nairobi and Naivasha.

This second leg is expected to kick off in June and will be undertaken by CRBC.

A total of Sh50 billion has also been paid to local suppliers as part of the 40 per cent local content rule.

Among those who have benefited are cement companies, steel, chemicals, vehicles, housing construction materials and oil products suppliers.

Completion of line will cut freight costs to 8 US cents a metric tonne (1.1 tonnes) per kilometre from the current 20 cents. Most cargo is currently hauled by road.

It is expected the line will increase the speed of freight trains from a maximum 40 kilometres per hour (kph) to 80kph.

Passenger trains will be moving at a speed of 120kph, cutting down travel time considerably.