President Uhuru Kenyatta has defended the extension of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) from Nairobi to Naivasha.
Uhuru criticised unnamed people and the media for questioning the 120km stretch, saying that it would in future be one of the biggest and beneficial projects.
The President spoke when he inaugurated the passenger train at Maai Mahiu SGR terminus following the completion of the railway line.
“Some prophets of doom are saying that this railway is going nowhere but as a government, we know what we are doing as we are planning for the future,” he said.
He said since SGR started its operations in Mombasa, over 3.5 million passengers and 6 million tonnes of cargo had been transported, reducing traffic congestion in the Coast region.
During the visit, Uhuru also launched the Inland Container Depot near Maai Mahiu town, saying it had been allocated Sh6.9 billion, with its completion set before the end this year.
“We have offered land to our neighbours in the 1,000 acres set for an industrial park and we expect thousands to get employment opportunities,” he said.
On the Nairobi Expressway, Uhuru said China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) would construct, run and charge toll for 30 years before handing it back to the Government.
“We require Sh400 billion to bring our roads to desired levels and the only way we can do this is by working with partners,” he said.
On his visit to the Port of Kisumu on Tuesday, Uhuru told of his shock on learning that some equipment set for auction had been serviced and were operating.
“A ship that had been declared as unfit for use had sailed from Kenya to Uganda while train wagons set to be sold as scrap metal are in good condition,” he said.
Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui hailed the SGR, noting it would bring down the cost of transport.
He added that the county government was ready to gazette the area around the industrial park as a special economic zone.
“We have set aside land for construction of houses around this park and we are calling on the State to address the condition of the road linking the SGR to Maai Mahiu,” he said.
Chinese Ambassador to Kenya Wu Peng said his country was keen to partner with Kenya in various infrastructure development projects.
“Some countries neighbouring Kenya have expressed their interest in such a project and we are ready to offer them advice, expertise and technology,” he said.
Local residents praised the SGR project, noting the industrial park would create job opportunities for hundreds of youths and open up the semi-arid region.
According to the chairman of Utheri Wa Lari farm Stephen Muiru, the area had lagged behind in development for years but now had an opportunity for expansion.
Silas Koelel, a Maasai elder, echoed the sentiments but was quick to call for compensation and resettlement of all persons affected by the project.
“We are excited by this project as it will offer jobs to many but we want the compensation of all affected persons resolved as soon as possible,” he said.