State rolls out Mombasa commuter railway plan

Traffic jam on Jomo Kenyatta Avenue in Mombasa on April 3, 2017. PHOTO | LABAN WALLOGA
Traffic jam on Jomo Kenyatta Avenue in Mombasa on April 3, 2017. PHOTO | LABAN WALLOGA 

Mombasa is set to get a commuter railway service to ease congestion and time-consuming traffic gridlock in Kenya’s second-biggest city.

The Kenya Railways Company (KRC) on Tuesday invited bids from local and international firms to provide consulting services for the feasibility studies and design of the proposed railway network, signalling start of the project.

“The government of Kenya has received financing from the World Bank toward the cost of the National Urban Transport Improvement Project (Nutrip) and intends to apply part of the proceeds to develop a Mombasa metropolitan commuter rail plan,” said Kenya Railways in a notice.

The State agency said interested contractors should submit their bids by 13 June 2017. It estimates that the feasibility study and design will take about 18 months.

The port city of Mombasa is a crucial trade gateway and also the country’s foremost tourism hotspot. It is, however, notorious for traffic jams and congested streets.

The commuter railway is expected to ease movement around the city.

Due to increased cargo to and from the Mombasa port and increased traffic volumes, the Mombasa–Mariakani section has remained a bottleneck to traffic flow in and out of the city.

But ongoing construction of feeder roads and highways in the city is also expected to ease congestion and enhance connectivity.

Some of the ongoing major road projects include the dualling and improvement of the Port Reitz and the Moi International Airport access roads, rehabilitation of the 53.4km Bachuma Gate to Maji ya Chumvi section along the main Mombasa–Nairobi artery, and the dualling of the Mombasa–Mariakani highway.

The Mwatate–Taveta road is being constructed, as well as the multinational weighbridge station at Mariakani.

The Kenya National Highways Authority (Kenha) is also constructing the Mombasa Southern or Dongo Kundu Bypass as part of the new Mombasa Port Area Road Development Project.

The new commuter railway project is part of a planned multibillion-shilling inner city railway networks for Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu and Eldoret.

Earlier estimates by Kenya Railways had set the total cost of the projects in the three counties of Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa at Sh217 billion.

The project would involve railway stations upgrade and construction of direct rail links with major airports in the three counties.

In March Kenya Railways signaled plans to build a railway city in Eldoret.

The mega projects are planned to come up along the Standard Gauge Railway.

The first phase of the SGR is ready for operation, and is expected to be launched on May 31 by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The Chinese-funded project is expected to ease movement of people and goods between Mombasa and Nairobi.

The railway line is expected to go into Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and South Sudan.

The single-track standard gauge railway between Mombasa and Nairobi stretches 472 kilometers out of the total length of 609 kilometers.

While passengers spend more than 10 hours traveling on road between the two cities, the SGR trains will shorten that duration to about five hours.

It is estimated that it will take about eight hours for the cargo train to travel between Nairobi and Mombasa.

The railway line is designed to transport 22 million tonnes of cargo a year, or a projected 40 percent of Mombasa Port throughput by 2035.
The passenger trains will shuttle at an average speed of 120km/h, while the cargo trains will do 80km/h.