Seamless train services to Nyanza set for December

Tuesday, September 28th, 2021 00:00 |
Meter Gauge Railways (MGR). Photo/Courtesy

Kepher Otieno

The link between Mombasa and Kisumu through rail is nearly complete with ongoing refurbishment of the Meter Gauge Railways (MGR) set to end at Kisumu with a new station by mid next month.

Kenya Railway Corporation (KR) says rehabilitation works of the 24-kilometre old rail lines between Naivasha Inland Container Depot and the existing Longonot railway station at a total cost of Sh3.5 billion is complete.

The line will enhance evacuation of cargo from the depot to Malaba and beyond, further reducing time taken to transport goods from the Port of Mombasa to Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and even South Sudan.

Ongoing works

Philip Mainga, KRC Managing Director told a parliamentary committee during an inspecting tour of ongoing works that linking the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) at the Naivasha Container Inland Depot to Longonot station through the MGR will allow for seamless transportation of cargo across the country and to the East African region by rail.

“Transportation by railway is faster than the road and our plan is to commission the MGR in November after ongoing trials,” he said.

Mainga said the link between  SGR line and MGR line at Longonot station will create two corridors from Kisumu through the Lake to Portbell in Uganda and through Malaba by rail. 

“We are finally set to commission passenger operations on the Nakuru-Kisumu meter gauge line early December,” he told reporters.

The director said that the railway has transported four million tonnes of cargo from the Port of Mombasa, adding that the railway economy contributes two per cent to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

This is part of ongoing constructing of new MGR links covering a total of length of 922 kilometres namely: Longonot to Malaba section; Nakuru to Kisumu Branch line; Gilgil to Nyahururu Branch line; Kisumu to Butere line, Leseru to Kitale Branch line. This development will improve and reinvigorate freight as well as passenger rail service.

“We will have a capacity of 1,000 passengers in eight coaches per trip,” Mainga said, adding that they will not only open up counties for business but also link them to other countries such as Uganda.

The overall objective of these undertakings is to improve the track stability status of MGR line and associated infrastructure, improving connections between major urban areas and neighbouring countries.

Kisumu East MP Shakeel Shabbir hailed the project noting that the link between the two lines will facilitate efficient transportation of cargo and passengers to western Kenya and to the other EAC countries of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and DRC (Congo).

With Kenya eyeing the $92.3 million (Sh10.2 billion) Congolese market for goods and services, the railway link closer to Uganda which is also in said to be working on it’s own meter-gauge will enhance connectivity through Kisumu.

The corporation says it has been rehabilitating the old railway line from Nakuru to Kisumu at a cost of Sh3.8 billion in an exercise which started on August 2020 by engaging the services of thousands of youth within communities where train traverses to repair the MGR, which is more than a 100 years old.

Concerted efforts

The technical bit saw concerted efforts between KRC engineers, KDF and Kenya Youth services.

It has taken KRC two years and billions of shillings renovating its decades-old rail network to increase bulk cargo transportation and travelers coaches. The new Kisumu station structure has been designed to accommodate up to 400 persons during peak time.

“We are working round the clock to finish work by mid next month,’’ said Kisumu Station manager Mwalimu Disi.

The corporation, he said, had liaised with the Kenya Urban Roads Authority (KURA) for construction of the external sections of access roads.

The current construction of Kisumu-Butere Branch line was completed in 1931 and was developed for mixed traffic (freight and passenger services).

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