Standard Gauge Railway freight service to open up Suswa, region
President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday launched the Standard Gauge Railway freight services from Syokimau to Suswa which will take transit of cargo deeper into Kenya’s hinterland.
This development extends SGR freight operations from Mombasa to the Naivasha Inland Container Depot (ICD) in a move expected to decongest Mombasa and take the depots closer to consumers.
However, this comes even as concerns abound that the ICD is not yet ready for business, with requisite infrastructure still incomplete.
With the new service, transporters will now pay $600 (Sh60,936) to transport a 20-feet container from Mombasa to Suswa which is Sh10,000 more than the Sh51,275 it costs to ferry the same container from Mombasa to Nairobi via same means.
Speaking during the official commissioning ceremony in Syokimau, President Uhuru Kenyatta said the SGR will spur economic growth, not just in Kenya but the wider East African region.
“The focus should, therefore, not only be on developing railway infrastructure solely for Kenya’s transportation and logistics needs, but also on creating linkages across Eastern and Central Africa.
This will allow for seamless movement of goods and persons across borders and, with that, unlock our greater full potential,” he said.
He singled out the Naivasha ICD as one development linked to the SGR that would ease trade in Kenya as well as the neighboring countries.
“Going forward, and as we mark the completion of the Naivasha ICD and the commencement of the freight operations to Naivasha, it is our expectation that these new transport infrastructure facilities will significantly support and provide anchorage, for the development of the Naivasha Industrial Park,” said Uhuru.
“We equally remain hopeful that other economic and commercial ventures will be established along the line, which together will trigger creation of productive employment; and in the process reduce poverty and inequality across the whole country,” he added.
He expressed optimism that the ICD will improve connectivity to the hinterland, relieve pressure on the port of Mombasa in addition to reducing the distance taken by cargo to Uganda and South Sudan by 120km.
Uhuru said the new railway line will support development of industrial parks, logistics and commercial hubs, as well as special economic zones which will attract further foreign investments and enable Kenya trade better with her neighbors.
In March, Kenya offered Uganda, its largest trading partner, land at the Naivasha ICD to build a dry port, a move that will see the landlocked country play a greater role in Kenya’s trade with hinterland countries such as Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Uhuru reassured Kenyans that the investment in SGR was a worthwhile venture both in the short and long term despite opposition by some quarters saying transport and logistics were a prerequisite for growth.