SGR seeks to reap from rising demand for freight services


SGR cargo train. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The ramping up of Kenya’s cargo operations on the standard gauge railway line between Mombasa, Nairobi and Naivasha has pushed the government to increase haulage on the freight service.

The Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) has begun the process of buying 500 wagons for freight services to meet rising demand.

KRC coast operations manager Thomas Ojijo told Shipping & Logistics that purchase approval has been made.

Currently, KRC is operating 10 freight trains from Mombasa to Nairobi and Naivasha Inland Container Depots. Nine of these wagons move cargo to Nairobi ICD and one to Naivasha daily.

Mr Ojijo said 1,620 wagons that are currently in use are not enough for the freight service as the volumes of cargo handled at the Mombasa port have gone up.

The official stated rail is energy- and time-efficient, is cost-effective and saves road maintenance costs, while reducing safety exposure on roads.

“We are only carrying 40 percent of containerised cargo and 10 percent of the conventional cargo. The remaining cargo is still being transported on the roads,” said Mr Ojijo.

KRC says it seeks to operate close to 15 cargo trains from Mombasa to Nairobi and the same number moves to Mombasa with empty containers.

The Naivasha ICD was launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta on October 16, 2019, while the SGR freight services to the Naivasha Inland Container Depot was done on December 17, 2019.

The planned increase of wagons comes at a time when hinterland shippers are increasingly turning to the Mombasa port in the face of infrastructure improvements and acquisition of new equipment, which are expected to facilitate even more trade within the region, in terms of cargo throughput and port efficiency.

Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said from Naivasha through Nairobi to Mombasa, the SGR network has the capacity and speed required to transport frozen fresh produce to the Port of Mombasa from any consolidation centre along the rail line.

“Recently, Kenya and the Netherlands signed an agreement to facilitate export of horticulture through the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR). The deal involves development of a cool logistics corridor on the railway system for the transportation of fresh produce to the port of Mombasa for onward export to Europe,” Mr Macharia said.

“To make the railway system ready for transporting refrigerated fresh produce, KRC has embarked on re-modification work to install reefer plug-in points for the containers.”

The CS said a reliable mode of transport is needed for onward transit of cargo into the hinterland to make its logistics infrastructure operational, particularly the Naivasha inland container depot.

Head of inland container depots Paul Bor said Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) is one of the firms transporting their produce via SGR line from Nairobi to the Port of Mombasa for onward export.

“We are doing fresh export of avocados and pineapples from Delmonte to the Nairobi Freight Terminal where it is loaded onto Kenya Railways wagons and subsequently transported to the Port of Mombasa,” Mr Bor explained.