Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) contractor, the China Road and Bridge Corporation, will remain in Kenya for another five years after the project is complete.
Transport CS James Macharia has said that the Government is inching closer to signing an agreement that will see the current contractor engaged in supervising the operations of SGR for the first five years of its operation. Since the next phase running from Nairobi to Naivasha is expected to be complete next year, the Chinese contractors may be here up to 2022.
Speaking during an inspection tour in Athi River, Macharia said the move was necessary in order to address accountability and safety concerns that may crop up once the multi-billion-shilling project becomes operational.
“You see, these investments about bridges, we would like the person who has done them to test them. To make sure we don’t have a train flipping because the contractor did a shoddy job. So it ensures accountability,” he said.
Ahead of schedule
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He added that this was agreed by all regional Member States of the Northern Corridor Transit and Transport Co-ordination. He said the Government would use those five years to build its own capacity to run the project.
But the announcement comes barely two months after Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) advertised on March 29 that it was in search of a transaction advisor to help procure an operator for the Mombasa-Nairobi SGR.
In the advertisement, the corporation had said that the transaction advisor would also recommend an appropriate operating model for the railway, which would in turn inform the proper procurement of the operator.
The Government has already said that the first phase of the SGR project running from Mombasa to Nairobi is ahead of the June 1 schedule. The second phase, which will end in Naivasha, is expected to commence in October this year.
The laying of the tracks will be completed by December to allow ample time for testing before the first train commences its service.
According to KRC Managing Director Atanas Maina, the corporation has already ordered for 56 trains that include eight for shunting, five for passengers and 43 as mainline locomotives. In addition, 1,620 wagons have been ordered.
A single train is expected to transport 216 20-feet containers in a single trip which translates to about 108 trucks on the road.
As a result, freight costs per kilometre are expected to drop to $0.08 (Sh8.05) per tonne from the current $0.2 (Sh20.13) per tonne. The average trip from Mombasa to Nairobi by train will average four hours.