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State to invest in Sh2b modern railway engineering school

NEWS
By Dominic Omondi | August 9th 2016
PHOTO: STANDARD

The Government has set aside Sh2 billion for the construction of a modern railway training school. The plans come as Kenya gears up for the launch of the Sh327 billion Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project next year.

This money will go towards infrastructure upgrade, and equipping workshops with modern training equipment that will be open to scholars by the next financial year.

Half of the Sh2 billion will be used to refurbish the 60-year old railway training institute (RTI) and to set up a new engineering school specialising in SGR technical operations.

The Government has pledged to contribute half of the cash for the project, while the current SGR contractor, China Road & Bridges Corporations (CRBC) and China Communications and Construction Company (CCCC), will give the other half for the construction of the new engineering school.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony for 102 students who have been undergoing  technical training on how to operate the SGR, Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said  this was in line with the Government’s desire to ensure CRBC transfers technology to the locals.

“Skills transfer is a key component of the deal that we signed with the contractor. It is a provision that we are keenly implementing, in collaboration with the CRBC by tooling our people for the task ahead,” he said in a speech that was read on his behalf by his PS Irungu Nyakera.

However, the good news of technology might have been dampened by the Government’s pronouncement at a press briefing that the Chinese contractor, CRBC, might be around for much longer.

According to Kenya Railways Corporation Managing Director Atanas Maina, the contractor will be operating the new railway, even after it has been completed, for another five to 10 years.

Critics have decried the manner in which the process of technology transfer from the Chinese to the locals has been done. However, Macharia said this was done to ensure a seamless transition of the operations of the Sh327 billion SGR to the locals.

TIME LINE

The new-look railway training institute will be ready in the next two to three years, according to Maina. The CS also revealed that a skills audit was ongoing to inform the training gaps and plan for the sector.

He explained that the initiative is financed by the four partner states and coordinated by Kenya’s Ministry of Education.

An Australian consultant has been contracted to do the audit and has so far submitted its initial report. In the next 12 months, there will be new curricula, according to Maina.

Maina said RTI was developing a strategy for training locals in the various skills required for high technology. The first batch of 25 students to undergo training under the SGR project left the country for China on March 30.

RTI has already developed a national competency based curricular for the railway as the Government moves to deepen skills on SGR.

“I wish to encourage the institute’s management to fast-track this process and work with the operator by ensuring seamless service delivery based on global best practice,” said Macharia.

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