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State moves to up skills of SGR staff

BUSINESS
By Macharia Kamau | March 6th 2021

Transport CS James Macharia and Kenya Railways Managing Director Philip Mainga (left) in one of the classes as they inspected Railways Training Institute's newly constructed classes and laboratories. [Jenipher Wachie, Standard]

The Government has refurbished the Railways Training Institute (RTI) as it prepares to take over management of the Standard Gauge Railway.

Kenya Railways has started taking over the running of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), which has been operated by Afristar, a subsidiary of China Road and Bridge Corporation since its commissioning in mid 2017 at a monthly fee of Sh1 billion.

RTI, while operational, has been dilapidated and lacks key facilities. It has been upgraded at a cost of Sh1 billion, which includes a budget for building access roads to the Nairobi Inland Container Depot.

The institute and the roads are seen as key in enhancing the operations of SGR.

Transport and Infrastructure Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said the institute would be used to increase the capacity of Kenya Railways staff as well as other Kenyans seeking to work in the industry in public and private sectors.

He added that the refurbished RTI includes modern laboratories and technical workshops and that it will be critical in nurturing people who will work on SGR after Afristar exits in May 2022 following an agreement to cede operations to Kenya Railways.

“We have done new infrastructure within RTI that will be used to upgrade skills of both SGR and metre gauge railway staff. There is no need of an SGR if we do not create opportunities for Kenyans,” Mr Macharia said.

“We can have the brick and mortar but if you do not train the people, then you cannot have successful transfer of technology from China to Kenyans.”

The CS spoke when he toured the refurbished RTI as well as a set of roads aimed at easing access to the container depot. 

The institute now has capacity to train up to 800 staff at a go to the same standards as those who have been trained in China, the CS said.

Kenya Railways announced this week that it has started taking over SGR operations and has already assumed management of security, ticketing and fueling of trains.

The handover will be phased with all the functions expected to have been transferred by May next year, coinciding with the fifth anniversary of the Madaraka Express service.

The passenger service started operations in June 2017 while the SGR commenced ferrying cargo in January 2018.

Afristar was given a contract to manage the SGR for 10 years, but Kenya Railways said this was subject to review after five years.

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