Efforts to promote the use of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) got a boost Thursday when a fully loaded train ferrying goods belonging to a leading logistics firm left Mombasa for Nairobi amid calls for more importers to use the service.
Bollore Transport and Logistics ferried 108 Twenty-Foot Equivalent Unit (TEUs) containers to the Inland Container Depot in Nairobi.
The firm’s managing director Jean-Pascal Naud, speaking during the loading of cargo said the train is efficient, cost effective and secure.
The positive review come after the cargo train services, launched in January, ran into operational challenges on lack of enough cargo. Transporters who gave the service a wide berth cited the huge charges imposed by Kenya Railways Corporation.
The corporation in February cut the charges almost by half from a high of Sh70,000 per container and the State followed up with a directive that all un-nominated containers should be transported on the SGR to boost service uptake.
On Thursday Mr Naud claimed that by using the SGR, importers were saving about Sh40,000 on a round trip after the freight cost cut.
Coast politicians have been opposed to the project, worried that the directive might cripple the tourism hub’s economy and render most youth in the transport sector jobless.
More than 10 clearing agents have relocated to Nairobi after the directive that effectively made the Embakasi depot the final clearance point.
But other players said there are numerous opportunities that Mombasa business community can tap along the cargo train service value chain.
Mr Naud, however, cited delays at the port and on arrival at the ICD as major challenge the government must address.
“There is a loophole that needs to be addressed especially in identifying containers at the ICD.”