June 18, 2012
The first phase of the Nairobi Commuter Rail project is on track to begin taking passengers next month.
The project aims to reduce congestion in the greater Nairobi area and ease commuter access between the Central Business District and the capital's outer neighbourhoods.
The 24-billion shilling ($283 million) commuter rail project has been divided into four phases, connecting the Central Business District to Syokimau, Ngong, Kiserian Kikuyu and the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, according to Kenya's Ministry of Transport.
The project includes the rehabilitation of the existing rail line, improvements to stations, signalling and other equipment, procurement of new commuter rail cars, and the extension of rail service to the airport.
The first phase of the project -- 2.2 kilometres of track connecting the new Syokimau Railway Station to the old Embakasi Station -- was completed on May 30th.
The Syokimau-Central Business District line, expected to begin commercial operations by the end of July, cost 200 million shillings ($2.4 million) and is expected to handle 10,000 passengers daily once completed.
Transport Minister Amos Kimunya said the Syokimau Railway Station will go a long way to decongesting the city and improving the country's transportation sector.
"We will ensure that there is a maximum number of trains operating on a daily basis to meet the commuter demand," he said after inspecting the station in May, according to Kenya's The Star.
"You will not have to be stuck in jams for long hours any more," he said.
The Syokimau-Central Business District line is the first railway built by Kenya since World War II. The original railway, built by the British between 1896 and 1901, runs from the port city of Mombasa to Kisumu on the shores of Lake Victoria. The new additions will connect to the original line at Nairobi Railway Station in the Central Business District.
Construction on the remaining three phases of the commuter rail will begin next year, Kenya Railways Corporation managing director Nduva Muli told reporters last month during his inaugural trip from Syokimau to the capital.
The government is considering international financing to fund the remaining parts of the commuter rail system, after a 17-billion shilling ($200 million) bond plan failed to materialise, according to Kenya's The Standard.
Once completed, the entire upgrade will have an initial capacity to transport 170,000 passengers, according to InfraCo Africa, which has been working with Kenya Railways on this project since 2009.
InfraCo said the project will open up new opportunities for employment and housing, and will provide reliable transportation to city residents and visitors. Business travellers will especially benefit from non-stop express service between the airport and city centre.
The upgraded railway network is part of Kenya's Vision 2030 development plan, and part of the government's ongoing efforts to improve transportation in the country. Other recent major infrastructural projects include the Thika superhighway, the Nairobi-Mombasa highway and the expansion of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
Martin Gateri, a civil engineer and consultant for private companies and the government on infrastructure projects, says the railway project will modernise Nairobi, likening it to international cities where transport is powered by high-speed trains.
"This is very critical, since it is meant to decongest the roads and improve the city's general infrastructural outlook by introducing a relatively cheap and efficient means of travel for the rapidly growing city population," Gateri told Sabahi.
Although there have been concerns over the eviction of people living on the land used to build the new train lines, Gateri said the sacrifice is necessary for progress.
"The building of railways in Britain in the 1880s opened up the country and laid the foundation for modernisation of that society," he said. "Laying down a new railway line across the country is one of the first major steps towards taking Kenya to the status of a [middle income] nation," he said.
Economist Tiberius Barasa said the new trains will help decongest the city, but the economic benefits are less certain.
"The advantage of this line is that it will ease congestion on the main highways leading in and out of the city, as well as reduce the time that commuters sit in traffic jams," he said. "However, economically, the benefit will be minimal, since the lines will be very short at less than 30 kilometres."
According to the Ministry of Transport, the Syokimau-Nairobi Railway Station line will be the longest at 20 kilometres.
To produce tangible economic benefits, Barasa said the railway system needs to reach urban centres far from the capital, such as Eldoret, Nakuru and Machakos, to facilitate the movement of goods and increase trade.
Francis Gichuki, an environmental sciences engineer at the University of Nairobi, said the new lines will achieve some environmental benefit.
Gichuki told Sabahi that the trains Kenya Railways will use are older and not as environmentally friendly as the newest trains on the market. Nonetheless, he said the environmental impact of an older train is still much lower than that of cars.
The project could be even more successful if the country manages to install modern engines with low emissions, Gichuki said. He said it would help Kenya progress environmentally, since a clean, efficient railway system is crucial in the reduction of greenhouse gases and fuel consumption.
Tanzanian police arrested Iringa Urban parliamentarian Peter Msigwa and 60 traders for unauthoris...
A Bosaso court convicted and fined 78 Iranians on Sunday (May 19th) for illegally fishing in Punt...
Tanzanian police arrested 15 suspects in connection with the burning down of Bethania Church in T...
Kenyan Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo has eliminated the posts of provincial police of...
Gunmen killed two people and injured four others in separate attacks on two villages in Banisa Co...
A conference to address oil and gas prospecting, investment, security, and infrastructure in Soma...
The Puntland Ministry of Women and Family Affairs began an eight-day training Sunday (May 19th) o...
More than 1 million Somalis will remain "food insecure" until September, the Famine Early Warning...
A delegation from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) visited officials in Moga...
A suspected terrorist and his wife were shot dead and six police officers were injured during a s...