50 more trains to arrive from China by May ahead of June launch

The government is set to receive 50 more trains by May ahead of the commissioning of the Sh372 billion standard gauge railway (SGR) on June 1.

Transport secretary James Macharia on Wednesday said the second batch of six trains is expected to arrive at Mombasa port in February, while the last batch of 44 will be delivered by May.

Speaking when receiving the first batch of six trains and rolling stock, Mr Macharia said the SGR project will be completed 18 months ahead of schedule.

He was accompanied by Transport and Infrastructure secretaries Irungu Nyakera and John Mosonik, Kenya Ports Authority managing director Catherine Mturi-Wairi, and Kenya Railways Corporation chairman Jeremiah Kianga.

The trains were made by China Railways Rolling Company.

“I am glad that the standard gauge railway civil works were completed in November and now we have started to receive the locomotives in batches,” he said.

The 56 include five passenger, eight shunting and 43 freight trains.

Mr Macharia said that 1,620 freight wagons are expected to arrive in Mombasa in the next three months while 40 coaches will be delivered by March.

“After receiving all the trains, wagons and coaches we expect President Uhuru Kenyatta to officially commission the railway project on June 1 (Madaraka Day),” he said.

The railway will revolutionise transport in the country, he said. “It will come in handy in helping clear cargo at the port following the commissioning of the second container terminal last year.

“Transportation of cargo from Mombasa to Nairobi will take between six and eight hours compared to 20 by road,” he said. On the other hand, passengers travelling by train will take only four hours to reach Nairobi unlike the eight they take on the road today.

“The railway will also reduce transport costs thereby bringing down the cost of doing business in the country,” he said.

Mr Macharia said the government has identified an operator to manage operations.

He said the firm will manage railway services for 10 years to ensure smooth operations and maintenance of the infrastructure.

Mr Macharia said 2,000 Kenyan youth will be trained on railway operations and maintenance.

Already, he said, 300 locals are being trained at the Kenya Railways Institute in Nairobi while 500 more are expected to complete training before the end of this year.

He said that 25 students will undertake a five-year undergraduate course at Beijing Jiatong University while another 75 will join the programme this year and 2018.

Mr Macharia said construction of the Dongo Kundu bypass, which will link Mombasa to the South Coast, was 45 per cent complete.

He also said building of the road from Moi International Airport to Changamwe was going on well, adding that the project will be completed between May and July this year.

Other projects being undertaken by the government to improve transport, he said, include the Malindi-Sala Gate Road, the Mariakani-Bamba Road and the Garsen-Lamu Road.

Mr Macharia said the government will soon commission the Mwatate-Taveta Road since tarmacking is almost complete.