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Vandals leave standard gauge rail operator with Sh1.2bn hole

Part of standard gauge railway on Nairobi-Mombasa route  that was vandalised in May. PHOTO| WACHIRA MWANGI
Part of standard gauge railway on Nairobi-Mombasa route that was vandalised in May. PHOTO| WACHIRA MWANGI 

Vandals have carted away materials worth Sh1.2 billion from the Nairobi-Mombasa standard gauge railway (SGR) line in the last five months, compromising the safety of passengers who ride on the trains.

The China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) said criminals have stepped up their illegal acts, stealing steel bars and fence materials since the launch of the service by President Uhuru Kenyatta in June.

“Losses caused by vandalism and stealing activities are estimated at over Sh300 million per month since the train was launched on June 1,” said Sia Li, head of public relations at CRBC. “The most targeted items are steel bars, electricals and signals facilities.”

The SGR line between Mombasa and Nairobi was built at a cost of Sh327 billion project. Its cost is expected to cross the Sh1 trillion mark by the time it gets to Malaba, making it one of the most expensive public projects to be financed by Kenya’s taxpayers.

The CRBC executives, however, say value erosion will continue as long as there is a thriving market for scrap metals.

Ms Li, who spoke to the Business Daily in Nairobi, called upon communities living along the railway line to report illegal activities instead of stealing from the project.

She said such thefts could also see domestic and wild animals begin to cross the railway line, endangering the lives of train passengers.

“The stolen equipment along the railway line jeopardise the safety of commuters on the SGR train. This is potentially risky because lives of passengers are invaluable,” she said.

Since the launch of the train, several people have been arrested in connection with to vandalism of the multi-billion SGR project. A number of the suspects have been charged with sabotage, destruction of infrastructure and engaging in organised criminal activities.

The train, which currently carries 2,700 passengers a day, does not have an insurance policy, which means that no compensation can be forthcoming for passengers injured or killed should an accident occur.

Last month, the operator said they have witnessed more than 140 accidents along the railway line after herders broke the barriers that restrict access to the railway line.