Investors invited to run high-speed city trains

A high speed train, similar to those expected to be launched in Kenya soon. PHOTO/ FILE
A high speed train, similar to those expected to be launched in Kenya soon. PHOTO/ FILE 

Investors will be invited to provide rolling stock such as trains and high capacity buses under the Nairobi Metropolitan Mass Rapid Transport System (MRTS) set to start next year.

Transport minister Amos Kimunya said on Wednesday the government would only build the 167-kilometre public road and rail network, leaving private companies to manage the services.

“Our focus on this project would be laying of infrastructure such as roads, railway and commuter termini but leave the rest such as the trains and buses to the private sector to handle,” Mr Kimunya said when he met a delegation of investors from Japan in Nairobi.

The grid will link the city centre with key neighbouring towns and municipalities such as Kikuyu, Thika, Ruiru, Athi River, Kitengela, Machakos, Limuru and Kajiado.

A feasibility study by Consult Engineering Services of India and its Kenyan partner APEC Limited showed the project would cover nine road corridors including the Nairobi Railway Station (NRS)-Ruiru-Thika, NRS-Juja Road-Kangundo, NRS-Jomo Kenyatta Airport-Athi River, NRS-Langata Road-Karen and NRS-Upper Hill-Ngong.

The Nairobi Railway Station area, including the yards, has been proposed for the construction of a 24-storey central hub terminal for the transport system where all lines would originate or terminate.

A blueprint presented to the government showed the road network would be serviced by an exclusive closed rapid bus system complete with special feeder services.

The special bus routes will run alongside the normal highways except within the Central Business District (CBD) where it would be elevated.

An estimated 378 buses would be required to operate this exclusive route service by 2015 with fares estimated at between Sh2 and Sh2.50 per passenger per kilometre.

The rail network is proposed to be on an elevated platform with a total of 76 stations and five maintenance depots.

“The operations of train and buses services will be left in the hands of the private sector” Mr Kimunya said, adding that diesel-powered trains would be initially used in the project that seeks to save commuters from biting traffic jams.

“For a start we will stick to diesel-powered trains until we sort out capacity issues in our national power grid. We don’t want to deny other sectors growth by taking all the power to trains,” he said.

Phase One of the MRTS project would cover the corridors along Thika Road I, Juja Road, Jogoo Road, Ngong Road 1, Limuru Road and Mombasa Road comprising 50.18km of elevated rail lines and 40.42km of road.

The second phase covers Outer Ring Road, Thika II, Waiyaki Way, Ngong Road II, Thika Road III and Lang’ata Road. The rail and road network in this phase would total 35.04km and 41.44km respectively.

Consult Engineering and APEC Limited estimate the MRTS project would cost about Sh409 billion to implement though the budget could be varied once the design is complete.

Some of the highways covered by project may be upgraded to between four and eight lanes, the consultants said.