Construction of the Mombasa-Malaba high-speed standard gauge railway line is expected to start soon, the Government has said.
Transport and Infrastructure Cabinet Secretary Michael Kamau said the ground-breaking ceremony that marks the commencement of the project will take place in a week’s time.
In a clear indication of the Government’s stamp of approval for China Road and Bridge Corporation to undertake the project, Mr Kamau warned that any further delay would see Kenya miss its ambitious economic growth projections.
“The Government carried out due diligence and the company meets technical, managerial, financial and legal capacities to implement the project,” Kamau said.
The parliamentary Committee on Transport, Public Works and Housing had expressed reservations why the tender was awarded to a Chinese company. China will finance a better part of the cost to develop the line to connect Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, which is over 1,250Km long
He said the Chinese company was awarded the tender as Chinese financiers prefer extending loans to Chinese companies that have won tenders.
Kamau told the Maina Kamanda led-committee meeting in Parliament that the Chinese government has given approval to the contractor to develop the system in the country.
He said the contractor is a state-owned company with rich experience in developing rail, airport and road projects of massive scale.
“The project is strategic and an enabler to the country’s economic growth as envisioned in the country’s long term projects,” he said.
Consequently, he warned that any attempts to derail it will see the country lag behind in connecting with East and West Africa countries.
“In this project does not start, we will have killed the other ambitious infrastructural projects such as the Lamu port and the port of Mombasa,” he warned.
Once the port of Mombasa is upgraded, cargo landing there can be loaded onto the railway and transported to other parts of the country as well as East Africa.
Kamau noted the project enjoys the political support of regional governments such as Rwanda and Uganda.
“If it does not start, then we have no business telling the other EAC partner states to shift their lines,” he warned.
The new investment will also see the speed of passenger commuter trains improve to about 120KM per hour and that of cargo to about 80 km per hour compared to the current 40. Besides, it would reduce transport costs and enhance the ease of doing business in the country.
The project also seeks to reduce congestion at the port of Mombasa and subsequently improve transport and business efficiency in the country. it is also expected to contribute about 1.5 per cent to the gross domestic product.
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