Plans to extend the standard gauge railway (SGR) from Naivasha to Kisumu have started taking shape after the State submitted an environmental impact assessment report.
The Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) is seeking approval for the project that will cost about Sh370 billion ($3.59 billion), funded by the Exim Bank of China.
The 255km-line is the third phase of the SGR, that is set to push the total cost of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration pet project to Sh847 billion.
“The proponent Kenya Railways Corporation is proposing to construct a 255 km SGR track between Naivasha and the proposed Kisumu Port,” an audit submitted to the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) reads.
“This project is phase 2B of the ongoing SGR construction and will cut through four counties, namely Narok, Bomet, Kericho and Kisumu.”
Even though the SGR is targeted to be built up to the border town of Malaba, experts say linking Kisumu port to Mombasa is seen as an early landmark as it will allow cargo to be transported over lake Victoria to other East African states, making the SGR a more viable economic project.
For decades, Kisumu port registered robust business activity helped by a reliable railway system and maritime vessels that ferried cargo to ports such as Mwanza and Bukoba in Tanzania and Jinja and Port Bell in Uganda.
Construction of a lake port is planned on the shores of Lake Victoria in Usare village, boosting trade with Kenya’s regional neighbours via Uganda’s Port Bell, Tanzania’s Mwanza Port with South Sudan via Jinja Port and Rwanda via Kimondo Bay.
The modern container port is likely to turn the lake-side town into a hub for trade.
President Kenyatta in May led a Kenyan delegation in making a formal request for additional funds from Exim Bank to complete the section.
So far, Sh327 billion has been spent on the first phase between Mombasa and Nairobi and Sh150 billion has been secured for the Nairobi-Naivasha section.
Currently the passenger train is operating on the Nairobi –Mombasa route and the freight trains are expected to commence operations soon.
Uganda has been negotiating a Chinese loan for the Malaba-Kampala section.
The Exim Bank has predicated the loan to Uganda on condition that it connects its line to the Kenyan SGR. The Kenya government has already signed a commercial contract for phase 2C which will run through Kisumu-Yala-Mumias to Malaba.
The port of Mombasa has handled an average of one million containers per year in the past three years, with most of its transit traffic heading to Uganda.