Editorials

Moving cargo on rail must make sense for importers

sgr

Chinese workers during the construction of Nairobi-Naivasha SGR line. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Linking the Standard Gauge Rail (SGR) to the old metre gauge railway will create a critical line that offers the multi-billion shilling project a lease of life.
  • The issues that have been plaguing SGR will still exist even with the connection to the port city of Kisumu.

Linking the Standard Gauge Rail (SGR) to the old metre gauge railway will create a critical line that offers the multi-billion shilling project a lease of life.

The 23.5 kilometre rail connecting the standard gauge railway (SGR) line to the old track in Naivasha is complete and will allow seamless travel between the Mombasa port and Kisumu.

Rehabilitating the Naivasha-Malaba line and building another short track connecting the SGR at Naivasha was a quicker option than building another SGR.

The government abandoned plans to extend the SGR line to Kisumu and later on to the Ugandan border after failing to secure a multi-billion-shilling loan from China, which had funded the first and second phases of the line.

However, the issues that have been plaguing SGR will still exist even with the connection to the port city of Kisumu.

Since its launch in 2017, the new railways has struggled to earn enough revenues to sustain the business after the Jubilee administration spent billions of shillings on the project. The State resorted to forcing importers to use the railway to enhance revenues.

Unfortunately, importers have complained of increased operational costs that threatens to kill their ventures. In light of this, the launch of the link to Kisumu and Malaba, the government should give transporters reason to abandon roads.

Transporting goods on rail should make business sense for importers in the region for them to move from road transport.

Cargo delays and corruption among port and railways officials blamed for inefficiencies should be a thing of the past.

If not properly addressed, both the SGR and MGR will struggle to get business while Kisumu port lack enough activity to sustain it.

While all this is happening, the push and pull between State agencies and importers will continue hurting local business and driving away people using the Mombasa port.