Extend and electrify SGR all the way to Uganda to make it viable


Standard Gauge Railway Passenger Train from Mombasa crosses the Voi town in Taita Taveta County in this photo taken on January 8, 2023. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NMG

What has never been in dispute is that for the Kenyan standard gauge railway (SGR) network to be a sustainable economic success, it must extend all the way to Uganda. This is the only way to attain a critical mass of tonnage and revenues while lowering unit costs.

This is why the recent announcement of plans by the Kenyan government to extend the SGR from Suswa in Naivasha to Malaba should be actualised. Uganda appears ready and is waiting for Kenya’s commitment, to enable them to extend the SGR from Malaba to Kampala and potentially beyond.

Having missed the opportunity for transiting Ugandan crude oil exports through Kenya , we should this time ensure that we do not give Uganda an excuse to link up with the SGR from Dar, a very feasible option. An SGR all the way to Uganda will protect the competitiveness of the Northern Corridor and the Port of Mombasa, which remains under threat from Dar port and the Central Corridor.

The Jubilee government rushed the SGR project and abandoned a critical project component — electrification. This is a necessary design correction as the line is extended further west. In fact, the Tanzania SGR is electric.

Electrification of transportation using renewable energy is the way the world is moving. Electrification will make the SGR easily qualify for green climate finance while reducing Kenya’s diesel import bill.

Further SGR will need to proactively upgrade its business model to tap emerging opportunities, especially in the areas of bulk haulage. The world is entering a critical phase of mining capacity expansion, especially in respect of critical technology and energy minerals which are abundant in the Great Lakes region as well as Kenya, when we seriously prioritise mining. The SGR should have the capacity for bulk haulage of mineral ores for export through the Port of Mombasa.

The government has lofty plans for expansion of LPG consumption. The SGR can create capacity for bulk transshipment of LPG from import facilities in Mombasa to various cities and towns upcountry for onward distribution and bottling.

This will reduce LPG haulage from our roads, a vital safety consideration. I visualise intermediate LPG storage facilities in Nairobi, Suswa and Kisumu fed on SGR. Should Uganda ever develop their refinery LPG exports can be easily hauled to Kenya.

Should the SGR expand all the way to Uganda, it should replicate the success achieved so far with passenger transportation and make it the preferred choice of travel to all major destinations up to Kampala. Going forward, we need to establish a PPP joint venture between Kenya and Uganda to progress the project.

The writer is a petroleum consultant. [email protected]

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