Chinese firm says grooming Kenyans to take over SGR

The Chinese government will hand over operations of the Standard Gauge Railway to Kenyans in six years. 

Africa Star Railway Operation Company (Afristar) is contracted to run and maintain the 592km Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) for 10 years after which management will revert to Kenyans.

Now in its fourth year since the deal was signed in May 31, 2017, the company is celebrating 1,000 days of safe operations together with a successful skills transfer programme.

Afristar General Manager Liu Jiuping said this week that skills transfer and subsequent handover of operations to locals was on the right track, having already hit the 80 per cent mark.

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“Since operation commencement, Afristar has been building a quality SGR brand through detailed management, people-focused service, optimised transport organisation mode and allocation of resources,” he said.

Afristar said the localisation drive boosted by continuous professional development had seen 1,072 Kenyan employees now capable of independently performing their duties.

Moreover, some 252 Kenyans now work in leadership positions. Of the said number, four Kenyans have so far been appointed into senior management positions led by a Deputy General Manager, Freight Marketing Manager, Deputy Passenger Transport Manger as well as Deputy Manager— Corporate Affairs.  

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“A total of 29 junior locomotive drivers now work without [close] supervision,” said Afristar in its report.

The firm also said the now Nairobi-Naivasha locomotive is driven by Kenyan drivers only.

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Afristar further said some 279 Kenyans now work in the transport department with some 17 of them at the intermediate station.

Moreover, so far there are nine Kenyan train dispatchers and four track inspectors. Another 144 work in the track and signaling department with 17 on board as equipment signal engineers.

The company said 78 Kenyans also serve as locomotive inspectors.  

Other achievements of the company include transporting more than 4.2 million passengers as well as ferrying cargo approximating 750,000 Twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUS).

Kenya Railways Managing Director Philip Mainga lauded the operator for conducting its operations efficiently thereby also enabling the company attain that many days of accident free operations.

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"It is a great joy for us in the rail transport sector to have attained such a mark. This is because when we developed the Railway Master Plan for Kenya a few years ago… we envisioned a cost effective infrastructure that would play a critical role in the improvement of national competitiveness,” he said.

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ChineseSGRAfrica Star Railway Operation CompanyStandard Gauge Railway