KRC, private firm to unveil commuter trains
By Macharia Kamau
The Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) has entered a partnership with a private company to introduce fast moving commuter trains in Nairobi.
KRC on Wednesday signed an agreement with InfraCo, a private infrastructure development company, that will see the two jointly design and develop the project.
The plan aims at increasing the number of commuters using rail from the current 19,000 to more than100,000 daily in the next three and a half years.
The upgrade will ease congestion on some of Nairobi’s busiest roads among them Mombasa and Thika roads.
The companies will also source for funds as well as identifying investors and operators in the next two years for the project.
The upgraded commuter rail service is expected to be fully operational within 18 months thereafter, KRC said in a statement.
The corporation will in the coming months carry out a feasibility study to establish the amount of money needed to bring the project into fruition.
It added that the existing locomotives would also be replaced by much faster and comfortable Diesel Electronic Multiple Units (Demus).
They also have a higher loading capacity and are easier to turn at train stations as they have driving cabins at both ends of the train.
Currently, the Rift Valley Railways (RVR) runs the commuter rail service under a concession. The five-year passenger services concession to RVR will expire in the next three and a half years, and KRC will take over with its new plan.
Commuter rail services are lucrative in other parts of the world and offer commuters fast and reliable means of transport. They have, however, performed poorly in the region, mostly due to failure by operators to adopt new technology and also the heavy capital expenditure that goes into infrastructure development.
The ambitious project between the State owned rail operator and Infraco might, however, see a turnaround in the fortunes of this section of rail transport.
Infraco will shoulder much of the upfront costs and risks involved in the early stages of the project .
It is a donor-funded infrastructure development company and acts as a broker to create viable investment opportunities that balance the interests of host governments, the private sector and financiers.
It has most of its projects in Asia and Africa its shareholders include the World Bank, Swedish International Development Agency and UK Department for International Development.
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