From left; Ambassadors Dmitry Maksimychev (Russian), Jafar Barmaki (Iran) and Zhou Pingjian (China) during the tour of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR). [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

Thirteen Nairobi-based diplomats on Friday toured the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) to understand its operations.

During the tour, they made stops at key SGR facilities and also had a train ride to Mombasa.

The tour was part of the railroad’s sixth anniversary.

Chinese ambassador to Kenya Zhou Pingjian said the event marked the strides that the partnership between the two nations has achieved.

He said the tour was significant, coming a day after the Chinese Day, marked on Thursday.

The purpose of inviting the foreign missions was to allow them an opportunity to familiarise themselves with SGR operations to utilise railways services.

Afristar, the SGR managing company, said the tour was to offer a special opportunity for the diplomats to experience the steps the country has taken in elevating the transport sector.

The delegation comprised of the Special Assistant to the Executive Director UN- Habitat Runze Wang, Dmitry Maksimychev, Russian Ambassador, Iran ambassador Jafar Barmaki, Vijay Kumar, second secretary at the Indian High Commissioner and South African High Commissioner Mninwa.

Engineer Tobias Otieno, who represented Kenya Railways Corporation, said SGR has had a recognisable economic impact in the country and East Africa region.

“Our Chinese counterparts are still assisting Kenya Railways in operating few functions in SGR line, that is serving Northern Corridor Route in freight and passenger transport,” he said.

SGR was commissioned on May 31, 2017 by former President Uhuru Kenyatta as the first phase of the project, with the second phase-Nairobi to Naivasha completed on October 16, 2019.

Otieno said the 592 km track, running from Nairobi to Mombasa has ferried some 11.155 million passengers, with an average seat occupancy rate of 95.8 percent.

“The highest number of passengers transported in a single day has exceeded 10,000, while the punctuality rate has been as high as 99.9 percent,” Otieno said.

He explained that for the five years SGR has been in operation, some 2.405 million standard containers and another 28.609 million tons of goods have been transported using the system.

The tour started with the communal viewing of a documentary showcasing the project, Kenya’s biggest ever infrastructure venture and a flagship execution of Vision 2030, the country’s main development blueprint.

This was followed by a visit to the Dispatch Centre, the nerve center of the entire SGR operation, a stop at the monument celebrating Sino-Kenyan friendship Nairobi, before the party hopped on to the afternoon passenger train to Mombasa.

The first component of East African Railway Network, a regional initiative spearheaded by Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, the SGR is a critical part of the Northern Corridor infrastructure that serves the port of Mombasa.

It was selected as the Outstanding Railway Project in 2018 by Engineering News Record (ENR)

The 592 km – track runs from Mombasa to Nairobi, before terminating in the Rift Valley town of Naivasha at Suswa.

The construction of the first phase, comprising 472 kilometre and running from Mombasa to Nairobi begun on December 12, 2014 and was completed two and half years later.

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