The standard gauge railway’s (SGR) freight service has started transporting dangerous cargo from Mombasa port to the inland container depot (ICD) in Nairobi in a move intended to offer relief to importers of such goods.
This follows the endorsement of regulations on transportation of the cargo by the Kenya Railways and China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), operators of the passenger and freight services.
The regulations spell out safety, security, transportation management, basic requirements for consignments and operation organisation of dangerous goods.
The approved classes cover flammable liquids, oxidising substances and organic peroxides, toxic and infectious, corrosive and other dangerous substances. Kenya Railways Managing Director Atanas Maina said the service will expand its range of cargo and is expected to realise growth once a relief line currently under construction is completed.
The line will allow freight trains to access conventional berths and enable the uptake of bulk cargo for transportation to the ICD. Goods such as steel, clinker and chemicals are off loaded at berths number one to 10, which are now being linked to the freight station by rail.
“We expect to complete construction of the port relief line by September, which will enhance our operations and allow us to transport bulk cargo. This will increase the volume of cargo we transport and enhance our operations,” Mr Maina said.
Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) general manager of operations and harbour master William Ruto said such goods are handled with great care, adding that there are specific regulations in regard to handling them.
“We deliver dangerous goods directly to the importer and transport by trains will also improve safety at the port because they will be loaded directly on them. Transportation by road is prone to hazards, especially in case of accidents,” he said.
The freight service recently transported its first consignment of temperature sensitive cargo, which was ferried in refrigerated containers (reefers) from the port to the ICD.
A reefer is a specialised wagon designed to transport delicate goods categorised as dangerous cargo which include flowers, meat products, milk, chocolates and fuel.
“We have not had such a service on the metre gauge railway line but the SGR accords us the comfort of offering a wide variety of options for freight customers which match standards found in the developed world,” added Mr Maina.
The freight service now offers seven trains per day and has transported over 800,000 metric tonnes from Mombasa to the ICD in Nairobi over the past six months when commercial operations began.
The 25 tonne axle flat wagons can carry a payload of 70 tonnes, moving at a speed of 80 kilometres per hour. It takes an average of eight hours between Mombasa and Nairobi.
Freight operations are also expected to shift a significant load from roads to the rail.
Kenya Railways has also introduced value addition to its Madaraka Express passenger service.
This includes provision of trolleys to customers with heavy luggage; introduction of complimentary tea or a bottle of water for first class passengers; priority boarding for first class passengers who now have a secluded waiting area; and provision of blankets during the journey.