Kenya Railways to take over SGR operations from Chinese firm Afristar

A section of Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) train at Syokimau in Nairobi. [David Njaaga, Standard]

Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) has begun the process of taking over the operations of Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) from the Chinese operator- Afristar.

The corporation has already assumed ticketing, security and fuelling functions of the Standard Gauge Railways (SGR) and expects to complete the takeover by May next year, Kenya Railways Chairman Omudho Awitta said on Thursday.

“We have negotiated with the contractor so that we take over the running of the standard gauge railway. The first phase has started, we have taken over the security, ticketing and fueling of the trains. These phases will go on smoothly up to May 2022 when we take overall operations,” said Awitta.

“Instead of the 10 years, we are taking over in five years. we are prepared for it and we are ready to go,” he said.


In 2017, KRC contracted Africa Star Railways (Afristar), a subsidiary company of China Road and Bridge Corporation, to manage SGR operations and maintenance.

The operator would be in control of passenger ticketing and revenue collection. KRC marketed the service at its own cost to find customers. The corporation, however, was excluded from collecting revenues from sales.

Earlier last year, the ticketing operations were riddled with scandals where Afristar, the Chinese operator of the SGR line, was accused of running largely unchecked operations where train cabins would routinely be artificially fully booked.

As a result, the Nairobi-Mombasa passenger train service appeared almost always packed – a situation chalked up to Kenyans’ excitement to ride the train – only for agents to later sell the tickets to desperate travellers at premium rates.