Proposed link to Nakuru could push up costs of SGR

Workers build a bridge for the standard gauge railway in Voi. PHOTO | FILE
Workers build a bridge for the standard gauge railway in Voi. PHOTO | FILE 

The cost of building the Nairobi – Malaba section of the standard gauge railway (SGR) is likely go up as MPs push for inclusion of Nakuru town in the design.

The MPs have warned that taxpayers risk losing out if the railway line does not pass through commercial nerve centres such as Nakuru.

Limuru MP Kiragu Chege said the implementing agencies should explain how they chose the route which runs from Nairobi to Mai Mahiu, Narok, Bomet, Nyamira, Ahero, Kisumu, Yala and finally to Malaba.

“They (implementing agencies) should also tell us the associated economic gains and if the taxpayer will get value for money on the new route,” said Mr Chege.

Kenya Railways Corporation Managing Director Atanas Maina however maintains that the current route was preferred because it is shorter than the other two options earlier proposed.

The other two alternatives would be Nairobi-Naivasha- Nakuru-Eldoret-Malaba and Nairobi-Nakuru-Eldoret-Kisumu-Malaba.

Mr Maina told the national assembly’s Public Investments Committee that the decision on the new route was arrived at after extensive feasibility studies.

“Aside from the approved route being shorter than the other two, it gives the country a chance to open a new corridor,” he said last week.

The cost of constructing the first phase of SGR—the line from Mombasa to Nairobi —was initially set at Sh327 billion, only to shoot to Sh447.5 billion, including financing charges.

Given the volatile foreign exchange, it may not be possible to estimate the final cost of the entire railway project.

This comes as President Uhuru Kenyatta assured his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping that the government was keen on implementing various projects signed between the two states including the SGR.

Mr Kenyatta noted the significant progress achieved in the SGR project and the job opportunities it had created.

“The SGR project has now been extended to Naivasha to be completed in December 2018,” he said last Thursday in Johannesburg.