Nairobi plans metro trains, special roads in next 15 years

From left: Nairobi governor Evans Kidero, Jica official Koji Noda and City Hall’s Tom Odongo during the launch on Tuesday. Photo/Phoebe Okall
From left: Nairobi governor Evans Kidero, Jica official Koji Noda and City Hall’s Tom Odongo during the launch on Tuesday. Photo/Phoebe Okall 

The Nairobi government Tuesday launched a new development plan for the city that is hinged on construction of new road and rail networks to disperse activity away from the central business district (CBD).

Governor Evans Kidero said the Nairobi Integrated Urban Development Master Plan (Niuplan) proposes more than a dozen commercial centres to create multiple economic arteries in the city. The list of locations earmarked for the developments includes Runda, Ruaraka, Ruiru, Ruai, Karen and Lang’ata.

Uthiru and Kabete have been earmarked for development as office and commercial centres while Doonholm and Airport North will be reserved for industrial and commercial while Kasarani will be developed into a residential, commercial and entertainment enclave.

Dr Kidero said the centres would be served by major transport corridors that are linked to the Thika highway, Mombasa Road and newly built by-passes in the city.

A network of metro railway lines will also interconnect the centres and the CBD to ease congestion.

“Location of sub-centres envisaged in the land use plan is connected to stations of commuter rail line,” the master plan says, adding that to induce the creation of sub-centres, development of a commuter rail line must be prioritised.

The master plan, which was officially launched Tuesday, says its success is hinged on the willingness of several government agencies to release their huge land holdings for development.

Kenya Power tops the list of agencies with huge tracts of land in the city in places like Dandora where it has a generous way leave that can be used to develop a road or railway line if power cables are taken underground. Others are stadium land near Kasarani and railway land across the city.

The Nairobi development blueprint proposes to alter the land use zoning and plot ratios in areas earmarked for development to allow for mixed use and denser settlement.

It remains to be seen whether residents of exclusive suburbs such as Karen and Runda will accept changes that are likely introduce commercial and high rise structures in their neighbourhoods.

City Hall said the proposed changes are also meant to enable the city to accommodate more people beyond the five million limit possible under the current ratios and zoning.

The document warns that a rapid roll-out of the plan is necessary to effectively manage the current population growth rates. Even in a best case scenario of suppressed growth, Nairobi will have 5.2 million people by 2030.

“This means that if Nairobi County needs to accommodate more than five million population, the existing regulation in Development Ordinance must be revised to change land use to convert some of the non-residential land to residential use and change plot ratio to higher value to promote higher population density,” says the report.

The master plan proposes a Mass Rapid Transit System along the city’s major roads to ease transport.

Some of the roads will also run light commuter railway lines. Roads earmarked for the rapid transit corridors include Thika highway, Juja Road, Mombasa Road, Waiyaki Way, Lang’ata Road and Outer Ring Road.

“Additionally, a circular mass transit route surrounding the CBD is proposed to create high accessibility and reduce vehicle transport,” adds the report.

The proposed plan has also revived the bid to kick matatus out of the CBD, proposing to terminate their services outside the city centre where passengers will transfer to larger city buses.

Besides the new sub-centres, the CBD is also targeted for expansion into nearby plots owned by the Kenya Railways.

The plan is to move the railway yard to the Makadara Railway Station to pave way for the joint development of a Railway City with the help of the private sector.

Nairobi County lands executive Tom Odongo said the master plan would go through a public validation process followed by an approval by the executive committee before it is taken to the County Assembly for adoption.

“That is when it becomes a statutory document on which all development must be based,” he added.

Nairobi last developed a master plan in 1973 that was to last till 2000, meaning that the city has been operating without a plan for the past 14 years. The latest plan is meant to guide the city’s development till the year 2030.