Kenya Railways Sh3.2 billion slum upgrade starts Jan

A commuter train passes through Kibera slums in Nairobi. Families and businesses next to the rail line will be moved from January to improve safety. File
A commuter train passes through Kibera slums in Nairobi. Families and businesses next to the rail line will be moved from January to improve safety. File 

Kenya Railways will start the Sh3.2 billion Kibera and Mukuru slum upgrade and relocation project in January to improve the safety of the Kenya-Uganda rail line and boost train speeds.

The project will see the rail firm secure a 60-metre reserve on the rail line sitting on the twin slums that will displace 9,000 families who reside or carry out business on the reserve.

The families will be accommodated in 3,192 single-room units that will act as homes and trading stalls that will be restricted from the rail line by nine metre high boundary wall that will run on both sides of the rail track.

Besides creating a clear route for the railway, the World Bank-funded relocation plan will compliment ongoing government efforts to upgrade slums by improving housing and sewerage conditions.

“The works are expected to start in January 2012. We want to facilitate use of faster trains and improve the safety of both rail and the slum dwellers,” said Kenya Railways Managing Director Nduva Muli. “Trains can only move through the area at low speed, which causes inordinate delays. It will be essential that it increases operational speeds throughout the railway system since the concessionaire expects to improve freight carriage.” Kenya Railways has sought permission from the environmental watchdog Nema to kick off the works that will boost the turnaround efforts of Rift Valley Railways, which won the concession to operate freight and passenger services on the Kenya-Uganda railway for 25 and five year respectively in 2006.

RVR has secured Sh16 billion from a consortium of lenders to revamp 100 locomotives, 3,500 wagons and the rail track that stretches from Mombasa to Kampala that will make the concessionaire meet the expectations of both Kenya and Uganda government and record profits.

While cargo volume at the port of Mombasa has shot up to over 19 million tonnes as at the end of last year from seven million tonnes in the 1980s, volumes transported by RVR have declined from 4.8 million tonnes to 1.5 million tonnes in the same period of time.

Kenya Railways said the encroachment of the rail reserve has hurt the performance of RVR by slowing down trucks and reducing the stability of the rail track.

It also plans to roll-out new and faster metro train services by 2013 to decongest the city motor traffic—making the relocation efforts a critical plank of the planned mega rail infrastructure projects. Details on the Environmental Impact Assessment report presented to Nema early this month show a slum upgrade plan that is different from what the government has done before.

Previously, the government has built two and three bedroomed houses to relocate slum dwellers used to leaving in one roomed shacks with no toilets, and the bulk of the houses ended up benefiting the middle-class.

Piped water

The Kenya Railways upgrade will build 3,129 single roomed houses measuring 20 metres by 20 metres of which 1, 490 will be residential units comprising a kitchen, a sleeping area and a toilet on the upper floor of the two-floor structures. The lower structure will sit 1,539 trading stalls of the same measure that will be subdivide into three units—which means that will 4617 businesses that Kenya Railways says will change the way business is done in the targeted slums. The units will be connected with piped water and to the national electricity grid.

The boundary wall will run for 12.3km with 5.3km covering the track on Kibera and seven kilometres on the Makadara- Embakasi section.

The project comes at a time when Kenya Railways is preparing to launch a commuter rail services within Nairobi Metropolitan by 2013 as part of plan that will see the model replicated in Kisumu and Mombasa as well as their surrounding counties at a cost of Sh256 billion. It plans to build a total of ten new stations including the ongoing construction of the Syokimau Station and upgrade the existing railway.