The Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) will soon start handling conventional cargo after extension of the railway line to cover 10 berths at the Port of Mombasa.
SGR project manager, Eng. Maxwell Mengich, said completion of the extension will make it possible for cargo discharged from a ship to be loaded directly onto the rail.
The extended line will be complete by August, with Kenya Railways (KR) managing director Atanas Maina indicating that construction work is more than 50 per cent complete.
“Its completion expected in four months’ time. The bridge is intended to connect SGR to berth number one to 10, which largely handles bulls and other conventional cargo,” Mr Maina said.
Its completion will enable the freight train to handle non-containerized (conventional) cargo such as fertilizers, grains and steels among others.
Mr Maina said the SGR line is currently connected to berths number 11 to 21, which mostly handle containerised cargo discharged at the by a ship.
“We are also targeting conventional cargo since we have wagons that can handle this too. On the Nairobi side, such cargo will be handled at the Nairobi Freight Terminal (NFT), which is next to the terminus,” he said during an interview.
He said the reason for linking all berth to the SGR line is to ensure efficiency at the port and utilise effectiveness of the facility to generate more revenue.
“It will steer economic development for the country. The focus is to ensure SGR can lift any type of cargo from the port in order to optimise on its capacity and efficiency...It will be possible to handle many trains in up and down direction,” Mr Maina said.
Mr Mengich reckons the move will also boost the volume of cargo transported via SGR.
“This includes the conventional ones transported through the SGR. Conventional cargo discharged at the Port of Mombasa will be transported through the SGR after the 10 berths have been linked to SGR line,” he said.
The completion is also likely to heighten tension between the State and industry players including truck transporters who rely on ferrying goods from the port to countries including South Sudan, Uganda and DR Congo for a living.
Even as the government tries to facilitate easier movement of cargo by extending the line to cover all berths, the move is likely to edge out trucks from the lucrative container business.
Currently, the SGR mostly transports containerised cargo and not conventional.
The extension is being undertaken by Chinese contractor China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), which is part of the Sh327 billion railway project.
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