Big test for SGR as freights start in January

Kenya Railways managing director Atanas Maina. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Kenya Railways managing director Atanas Maina. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The movement of goods between Nairobi and Mombasa is set to ease in the new year once the standard gauge railway (SGR) cargo train becomes fully operational in January.

The government plans to move 40 per cent of cargo handled by Mombasa port from roads to the SGR as it banks on the modern train service to reduce the damage caused by trucks to highways and also reduce accidents.

The trains will shorten the time it takes to transfer cargo from Mombasa to Nairobi by more than half. The trucks at the moment take a whole day.

“Our focus is now on cargo. We have started negotiations with shippers and cargo owners as we seek to boost the number of goods on the SGR,” said Kenya Railways managing director Atanas Maina.

The parastatal, said Mr Maina, is banking on efficiency and reliability to ease the shift of cargo from roads to the railway.

Commuter trains have picked up after their June launch. However, Kenya Railways is still grappling with how to transport cargo to final destinations.

Whereas ferrying goods by SGR from Mombasa to Nairobi is cheaper compared to using the road, owners will have to incur an extra cost to move the consignments from Embakasi based inland container depots to final destinations.

Mr Maina said they will meet with truck owners to discuss charges for transporting cargo from Embakasi to different destinations.

Transporters have been charging about Sh80,000 per twenty foot equivalent units container from Mombasa to Nairobi.

Kenya Railway, on the other hand, will charge about Sh50,000.

President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the SGR cargo wing on December 16.

Trains have been conducting cargo haulage pilot tests since the beginning of this month.