The planned construction of a railway line connecting Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) to the Nairobi central business district is good news for commuters who have been mainly using the expensive taxis to get to the airport.
Those who have been heading to JKIA from Nairobi CBD have also been contending with heavy traffic, putting them at risk of missing their flights.
It is expected that with the completion of the rail link to the airport, these setbacks will be consigned to the past.
The project, to be undertaken in the next two years by a French firm, will also connect to the Standard Gauge Railway.
While travellers will heave a sigh of relief once the project is complete, taxis, which have been the preferred mode of transport to the airport, will be hit hard as they are likely to lose many of their customers. A lot of taxi firms operate to and from the city to the airport where passengers pay between Sh600 and Sh1,500 on average depending with where they are commuting from or to.
The new development borrows largely on the success of the metre gauge railway that is connecting the Syokimau Standard Gauge Railway Station to the Nairobi CBD where passengers change to commuter train once they get to the city from Mombasa. The project is one of the many measures the government is putting in place in a bid to decongest the city that is notoriously known for having heavy traffic.
“A properly functioning urban commuter rail system and Bus Rapid Transit System (BRT) in our cities, and particularly here in Nairobi, will transform the lives of millions of urban dwellers as well as make Nairobi a wonderful experience for tourists and visitors,” President Uhuru Kenyatta said last week.
The government has approved Sh10 billion for the rehabilitation of four existing lines with the heaviest passenger-carrying potential. These are Nairobi Central Station to Ruiru, Nairobi Central Station to Embakasi Village, Nairobi Central Station to Kikuyu, and Nairobi Central Station to Kitengela.
Mass rapid transport
The Kenya Railways Corporation has already started the process of making new coaches in anticipation of increased number of passengers. In 2012, the World Bank approved a $300 million loan towards Kenya’s National Urban Transport Improvement Project, which sought to develop new mass rapid transport systems to reduce traffic congestion in the capital city and other major cities. The major components of the project include the expansion and upgrading of the highway as well as service, and access roads from JKIA through Nairobi to Rironi on the Northern Corridor transport system.
The Ministry of Transport has already created dedicated lanes for mass rapid transport along Lang’ata Road, Mombasa Road, Uhuru Highway, and University Way, which joins Murang’a Road and finally Thika Road.
Others are Tembo Line (Kangemi-Imara), Simba (Bomas-Ruiru on Thika Superhighway), Chui (Njiru-Showground), Kifaru (Mama Lucy-T-Mall) and Nyati (Balozi-Imara)
Sixty-four buses s are being constructed in South Africa fir the mass transit, but the date of their shipping into the country is still unclear.
At their optimum capacity, the corridors are expected to hold up to 950 high capacity buses, reducing travel time and cost by up to 70 percent, according to Ministry of Transport. A group of matatu owners and operators have rejected the government's intention to introduce these buses. They say the move as well as the planned phase-out 14-seater matatus will negatively affect their investments and at the same time increase the rate of unemployment.