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Economy

MPs summon Macharia over order on SGR cargo

Transport Secretary James Macharia. FILE PHOTO
Transport Secretary James Macharia. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Transport Secretary James Macharia has been ordered to appear before the Senate within 14 days to explain why the Government is forcing importers to use the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) to move all cargo to destinations in Nairobi and beyond.

The chair of the Senate Committee on Roads and Transport, Kimani Wamatangi, made the ruling after Mr Macharia, for the third time, snubbed a meeting with Senators and transporters where he had been directed to explain the reasons behind the directive.

Mr Wamatangi also ordered the Transport ministry to refund transporters from Mombasa expenses incurred two times when they travelled from the coastal town to meet the Senators and Mr Macharia over the directive.

The Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) and Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) ordered that all imported cargo be transported aboard the SGR cargo train effective August 7, a move that has paralysed business for hauliers and freighters, reportedly leading to job cuts.

“The ruling is that the CS and the Director-Generals at Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA), Kenya Roads Authority (KeRA) and National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) are summoned to appear without fail within 14 days,” Mr Wamatangi said.

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“We do not want to get to a point where we resort to ordering arrests of the people concerned,” Mr Wamatangi, who is the Senator for Kiambu, said.

At a meeting chaired by Interior Secretary Fred Matiang'i, Mr Macharia had agreed to lift the order. The "breakthrough", which seemed to pacify Mombasa residents who had threatened to disrupt the Heroes Day or Mashujaa Day celebration on October 20, was never implemented after the fete.

Mr Macharia was first summoned in August but snubbed the Members of Parliament and remained silent amid job cuts for hauliers and frighteners following the directive given to boost SGR cargo revenues. SGR has struggled to attract adequate cargo volumes, with investors balking at the tariffs to transport goods from the Mombasa port to the Inland Container Depot (ICD) in Nairobi.

The cargo train that started operations in January, 2018, generated Sh4 billion in the year to December, underlining its struggles to meet revenue targets while passenger ticket sales were Sh1.61 billion, putting SGR revenue at Sh5.6 billion.

The revenue was not enough to meet operation costs, earlier estimated at Sh12 billion a year, prompting the directive on cargo transport from the port of Mombasa, an increase in freight charges this year and an increase in passenger fares for children on Mombasa-Nairobi trains by 100 percent.

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