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Land tussle could derail SGR plan for EPZ, warns agency

By Dominic Omondi | September 13th 2019

The plan to have a railway siding connecting the Athi River Export Processing Zone (EPZ) to the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) now hangs in the balance.

This is after private investors, allocated land between the industrial park and the SGR station, cordoned off the area, making it hard for the EPZ Authority to develop the railway siding.

In rail terminology, a siding is a low-speed track section distinct from a running line or through route such as a mainline or branch line or spur.

Following the new development, manufacturing firms based in the zone are now avoiding the Nairobi Inland Container Depot (ICD), citing additional costs of using the dry port.

Construction of the railway siding was to ease logistics costs for firms operating in the EPZ, according to EPZA chairman Paul Gicheru.

“The current movement of containers from Athi River to Nairobi ICD for transhipment has led to the long delays in clearance further leading to higher logistical costs and losses to the investors,” he said in a statement on Thursday.

Attract investors

“This needs full support from all the concerned government agencies to ensure that as a country, we are attractive to investors.”

He said the cordoning off of the area between the Athi River EPZ, the old metre-gauge railway and the SGR Athi-River station by private investors had made it difficult for the authority to develop the railway siding.

“This brings to question the appreciation of the other government agencies on the importance and significance of the Athi-River station in aiding logistics activities in and out of the Athi River EPZ Zone,” said Gicheru.

Mr Gicheru blamed Machakos County’s planning department for approving the development of the boundary wall and cordoning off the railway without considering the role of a railway station within a key industrial park.  

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