Naivasha SGR section was an after-thought, feasibility studies now show
SEE ALSO :Grand SGR dreams die at SuswaPresident Kenyatta has even doled out free land to South Sudan and Uganda for development of their own inland ports in Naivasha. Unfortunately, the two countries Kenya is wooing have still not been plugged into the SGR, which was initially designed as an East African Community project. China Roads and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) had identified Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Uganda and Ethiopia as integral to the viability of the modern railway. But with most of the countries yet to develop their sections of the railway and Ethiopia looking on towards Eritrea and Djibouti, Kenya has been left alone. Experts have noted that without enough traffic, the SGR could easily be a white elephant. President Kenyatta insists any railway project results into development. “Let me assure you that even the section that remains, we will complete,” said an incensed Kenyatta when he launched the passenger train from Nairobi to Naivasha. Tough things Hinting at how tough things were for the project, the President noted that challenges were always expected in any journey. “But when you go to the bathroom, you have to take off your clothes,” said Kenyatta in Swahili.
SEE ALSO :War on fakes hits Chinese goodsAccording to the World Bank’s study, for SGR to recoup its investments and impact the economy, it has to carry up to 55.2 million tonnes annually. There is no such traffic. According to the Washington-based institution, not even when you aggregate all the cargo from South Sudan, Uganda and Rwanda with Kenya’s. Yet the Government has continued to desperately scrap for any traffic it can lay its hands on, including forcing importers onto the SGR. Before it decided to force traders onto the SGR by discouraging cargo nomination and use of the Container Freight Stations (CFSs) at the port of Mombasa, the Government through the Head of Public Service issued a circular on March 7 last year, directing all ministries, departments and agencies to use SGR for all their transportation. Official data shows rail freight traffic more than tripled from 1,147,000 in 2017 to 3,544,000 tonnes last year, following introduction of freight transportation services on the SGR. Revenue from railway freight, on the other hand, increased from Sh3 billion in 2017 to Sh9.8 billion last year. But this is barely enough to operate the railway and put aside some money to repay the over Sh400 billion loan the country took from China for the project. So in March, KPA Managing Director Daniel Manduku cancelled an earlier notice that had allowed importers of nine commodities to use any CFS of their choice.
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