The Mombasa-Nairobi standard gauge railway, whose construction starts next year, is set to open up at least 40 business centres but divert business from the road to the port city. Construction of the line is estimated to cost Sh340 billion ($4 billion), according to disclosures contained in a regulatory filing. Kenya is planning to build 40 stations along the line, 33 of them once the railway becomes operational.
Construction is expected to take five years beginning July next year through June 2018, with the railway running through Mombasa, Kilifi, Kwale, Taita-Taveta, Makueni, Kajiado, Machakos and Nairobi counties and opening up remote areas. However, some towns will face challenges because they depend on long-distance truck drivers as a key source of revenue.
“Towns and market centres which depend on long distance trucks for business opportunities will experience an economic downfall… In areas where the proposed railway takes a new route, there will be growth of towns, businesses and market centres leading to growth of the local economy,” says the document.
The railway, on which trains will travel at a maximum speed of between 80 and 120 kilometres an hour, runs parallel to the Nairobi–Mombasa road and will be used alongside the existing one operated by Kenya Railways Corporation and Rift Valley Railways.
It is designed for four and six passenger locomotives for short and long distance respectively, and will also accommodate 56 and 100 freight trains for short and long haul respectively.
The line is expected to reduce pressure on roads as the current railway can only handle six per cent of cargo from the Mombasa port. The rest has to be hauled by road which is unsustainable.
According to a report by the National Environment Management Authority (Nema), people living along the proposed railway route are optimistic that the project will create employment opportunities.
“Job opportunities will arise at the 33 terminals which will be created, in the trains, and maintenance workshops. This will be a source of income for individuals and households and hence is expected to boost the economy and improve the living standards of Kenyans,” notes the report. The report notes that participants in these meetings were optimistic that business opportunities will arise during construction of the railway project.
Small scale businesspeople such as food vendors and kiosk owners should be kept busy through the building period. The 33 new terminals will lead to creation of new towns or the revitalisation of existing old towns leading to new business opportunities.
“Mining of building materials, especially the Mazeras flat stones, will greatly improve due to cheap and affordable transport,” notes the report.