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Nairobi to get six more commuter trains this month

BUSINESS
By Macharia Kamau | March 8th 2021
President Uhuru Kenyatta boards one of the commuters train at the Nairobi Central Railway Station to Embakasi last year. [PSCU]

The Nairobi Commuter Rail service is set for a boost with the planned addition of extra trains by the end of this month.

Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) expects the additional commuter trains – referred to as diesel multiple units (DMUs) – to enable it to increase the frequency of trains plying the different routes across the city.

The corporation had acquired 11 DMUs from Majorca State in Spain at a cost of Sh1.15 billion and received an initial five, which started operations last November.

The remaining units are expected to be delivered before April. The units, while faster and more efficient than the age-old locomotives, are not new but refurbished.

They were previously used by the regional government of Majorca which has started greening its public transport through the electrification of buses and trains.

KRC Chairman Umudho Awitta said the corporation will be expecting the DMUs this month and they are expected to improve the commuter service. “We have been revitalising the commuter lines in Nairobi. This started with the modification of the old coaches to increase the capacity by including space for standing passengers. This however turned out not to be very efficient because of the age of the locomotives,” he said.

“It is because of this that we opted for the DMUs. We ordered 11 from Majorca, Spain. Five of these were delivered towards the end of last year. The remaining six will be arriving in the country by the end of this month or early April.”

The city’s commuter rail service is part of the larger plan to improve connectivity within the Nairobi metropolitan areas through modernising and expanding the underutilised railway transport infrastructure facilities.

The Ministry of Transport has in the past said the service is used by upwards of 13,000 commuters daily, making it an essential service for the city.

Awitta said the new units would enable KRC to increase the frequencies of trains on some of the busy routes.

“We plan to run frequent services and the residents can access the central station in a matter of minutes throughout the day. Instead of taking two hours in traffic, they can be in the central business district in 20 minutes,” he said.

“We intend to have hourly trains running in different directions.” The Transport ministry is also moving to revive the stalled bus rapid transit (BRT) system.

While BRT systems along major arteries could hold the cure to the many ills that afflict public transport in Nairobi, they have faced many false starts despite making billions allocated to the project over different financial years.

Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said on Friday the ministry has started the implementation of the Thika Road system, years after it started demarcating lanes on the highway but unceremoniously stopped.

“We have already started the project from Ruiru towards the city, the contractor is on site,” he said. “A BRT is also being implemented on Mombasa Road even as the Expressway is being built. The implementation of the Expressway has made it easier because it has created more space,” said Macharia.

“Before, there were three lanes on either side of Mombasa Road but when the Expressway is completed, there will be enough room for another two lanes at the middle which we will use for the BRT that will be commissioned with the Expressway.”

The Sh62 billion Expressway, which stretches from Mlolongo to Westlands, is expected to be commissioned before the end of this year.

Both the rail and the BRT could ease congestion in the city, with the Nairobi Metropolitan Authority putting the losses at Sh100 billion annually.

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