The dream of a grand Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) running from the port of Mombasa to Kisumu then Malaba and further into Uganda appears to have died at the Great Rift Valley’s escarpment.
The government is instead readying to start renovations on the old metre-gauge railway from Naivasha onwards, which is then expected to connect with the SGR at Suswa.
President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday said the government would soon start undertaking works to refurbish the old railway as well as the construction of a new line between Suswa and Naivasha connecting SGR.
“To further enhance efficient transport and logistics network to Kisumu and Malaba, my administration will soon commence works on the restoration of the Metre Gauge Railway network from Maai Mahiu through Longonot to Kisumu and Malaba,” he said.
The President, who spoke when he launched the SGR freight service to Suswa from Syokimau, made no mention of extending SGR to Kisumu. The Government appears to have abandoned the plan after failing to secure funds to complete the phase.
The Kenya Railways Corporation had already undertaken a study on the route that the phase 2B of SGR would take. From Suswa, the railway would pass through Narok, Bomet, Kericho counties and terminate in Kisumu.
It had been projected to cost Sh350 billion, which in addition to the Sh327 billion (Mombasa-Nairobi) and Sh150 billion (Nairobi to Naivasha) would have pushed to more than Sh800 billion the cost of the project from Mombasa to Kisumu.
China and Kenya were ready to start negotiations for financing the last phase but never kicked off, with China insisting that Kenya needed to undertake a feasibility study on the entire railway line to establish its viability. Kenya on the other hand was reportedly pushing for friendlier loans and grants.
The Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Transport James Macharia, while attending a summit in Beijing in September, last year, announced that the government had opted to upgrade the metre gauge railway between Naivasha and Kisumu and Malaba and link it with the SGR.
The ministry said it will cost Sh21 billion, of which Sh15 billion will refurbish the old track while connecting the SGR and the old tracks in Naivasha, a 43-kilometre stretch, is estimated to cost Sh6 billion.
Despite the push and pull with China in financing the phase to Kisumu as well as the general perception that the country has been overburdening Kenya with expensive loans, President Kenyatta referred to the Asian country as a constructive partner in Kenya’s socio-economic development.
The Sh6.9 billion Inland Container Depot (ICD) in Suswa has an annual loading capacity of two million tonnes, which the President said would help ease freight transportation, especially to neighbouring countries while relieving pressure from the Mombasa Port and Nairobi’s ICD.
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