The second phase of the 120km Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) line linking Nairobi and Naivasha is projected to be completed in 2019.
It has the potential of catalysing growth of various townships along the route.
The Nairobi metropolitan region has a huge population that is growing at an exponential rate. According to the 2009 National Census, the region that comprises Nairobi, Kiambu, Machakos and Kajiado counties had a total population of 6.7 million.
It is estimated that the metropolitan region’s population will grow to 14.3 million people by 2030.
Phase 2A of the SGR which will traverse Kajiado, Nairobi, Kiambu, Nakuru and Narok counties is poised to boost development of urban centres in the respective counties and enhance Nairobi’s attractiveness as a commercial and financial hub.
The contractor, China Communication Construction Company (CCCC), expects to have five railway stations along the 120km line. The stations were carefully selected with a long-term transport capacity vision, as well as promoting economic development along the line.
The population distribution and land use activities along the SGR route was another key consideration in the design of the line.
The design will open up real estate market for investment in Kajiado, Nakuru and Kiambu counties. Historically, urban towns have expanded whenever there are major infrastructure developments that make these areas accessible.
Perhaps the most significant investment along the route, and which in turn will spur development along the route is the proposed Naivasha Industrial Park.
One such success story is the Gautrain in Johannesburg, South Africa. The launch of the high-speed rail service between Johannesburg and Pretoria, a distance of about 69km, offered thousands of people commuting daily from Pretoria a reliable and convenient mode of transport.
A study done by KPMG on the five-year economic impact of the Gautrain showed that approximately Sh86.3 billion had been injected into new developments and upgrades of retail centres within a 10km radius of the railway stations.
The high-speed rail service also impacted positively on the property values close to the stations, with a significant increase in office space investments. The development of the housing markets in Kajiado, Nakuru, Narok and Kiambu counties would additionally complement the government’s big-four agenda of adding 500,000 affordable units over the next five years.
It is important to note that urbanised areas need reliable transport systems to feed their inhabitants and for the aforementioned towns the SGR will be their meal cart. Livestock from ranches in Akira, Mai-Mahiu and Kedong will have a safer, reliable and faster mode of transport.
Naivasha-based flower farms will have alternative and cheaper transport to ferry their produce to various markets. Intra-county trade will also be boosted as towns such as Voi, Makueni and Mombasa can take their produce to deeper markets.
At the same time, the contractor should place more emphasis on creating wealth and employment opportunities for the residents along the route.
With the expected economic impact on the satellite towns along the route, the residents ought to be empowered to be in a good position to take advantage of these opportunities.
Planned out well through the involvement of all stakeholders, the second phase of the SGR has the potential of urbanising our counties.
Joel Thumbi, head of content production, Hisani Content House.