Transport

Kenya pumps Sh4.5bn to revive rail lines, eyes more transit trade

rail

The end of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) at Murtoto in Suswa area. PHOTO | ROBERT GICHIRA | NMG

The government will spend Sh4.5 billion to rehabilitate old railway lines in a bid to improve transit of goods to the neighbouring countries.

The proposal by the Kenya Railways targets to revitilise 217km Nakuru-Kisumu metre gauge railway (MGR), 77.8km Gilgil-Nyahururu MGR branch line and the 69.05 Kisumu-Butere section which are currently in “dilapidated, vandalised or overgrown with vegetation”.

According to a draft seen by Shipping & Logistics, the parastatal has set aside Sh3 billion for the Nakuru-Kisumu line, Sh537 million for Kisumu- Butere and Sh1 billion for Gilgil- Nyahururu branch line.

The three lines will act as main trans-shipment points between the standard gauge railway and road for freight traffic destined for areas beyond Naivasha inland container depot.

“The lines will serve freight destined for Uganda, Southern Sudan, DRC, Rwanda and Burundi before implementation of Mombasa-Nairobi-Malaba SGR project,” said their plan in part.

The services along the line will reconnect the railway line with the recently rehabilitated Kisumu port, reduce carbon emission and support the establishment of special economic zones along the counties traversed.

While noting that the western regional network is currently in a poor state, the plan notes that the project seeks to replace the existing rail, signal equipment, stations and locomotive-hauled coaches with modern and efficient rail infrastructure and passenger coaches with new technology.

“Importantly, the revitilisation will promote transport of bulky cargo from the port of Mombasa to Kisumu and to the Great Lakes countries,” said the document signed by Kenya Railways planning, design and environment manager John Maina.

“The farmers would once again be able to transport farm produce, including indigenous vegetables to Nairobi and beyond cheaply and more reliably.”

Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) general manager operations and harbour master, William Rutto noted that the railway line will enable importers and exporters to handle their cargo from Kisumu instead of travelling all the way to Mombasa.

To enhance the port with a capacity of 25,000 TEUs throughput, Mr Rutto underlined the need to improve the size of the old railway from Nakuru to Kisumu from the current 50 pounds to 80 pounds in order to handle more cargo.

Some of the counties set to benefit include Nakuru, Kericho, Kisumu, Vihiga, Siaya, Kakamega, Nyandarua and Laikipia.

The environmental impact assessment report submitted to the country’s environmental watchdog shows the rehabilitation will be done internally by Kenya Railways staff with immense technical support from Kenya Defence Forces and the National Youth Service.

For three decades, the Nakuru-Kisumu, Kisumu-Butere and Gilgil-Nyahururu railway lines have been sinking deeper into oblivion as sections of the track were covered with heaps of soil and lush green vegetation.

Kenya Railways will also construct a new station at Kisumu which will have components such as the manager’s office, reception, waiting lounge and lobby.

The hub has approximately 50,000 square feet of commercial space and is expected to provide passengers with an enhanced experience as well as create business opportunities for small and medium enterprises and create over 2,000 jobs for the residents.

The completion is envisaged to open up the regions, enhance intercounty connectivity, lower cost of transportation as well as spur economic development in the region.