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Inside Kenya Railway's plan to make revived Kisumu-Nakuru line viable

By Harold Odhiambo | March 25th 2021
The National Youth Service taking part in the rehabilitation of the Nakuru-Kisumu railway line. [Courtesy]

Kenya Railways has laid down a plan to make the multi-billion shillings Kisumu-Nakuru line economically viable after rehabilitation.

Experts tasked with delivering the Sh3.7 billion project are expected to complete the rehabilitation of the 216km line in two weeks.

While there are plans to introduce a cargo train to make a dry run to Kisumu port, vandals have started destroying the railway line.

Kenya Railways plans to boost cargo transport on the route to enable the country to tap into the region’s export market through Kisumu port.

The line connects to the Sh3 billion refurbished port whose economic viability depends on the rail network.

Several complementing facilities including a marine school are expected to ensure the success of the port and the railway line.

Kenya Railways has completed the construction of an inland container depot (ICD) at Kibos in Kisumu and the line linking the rail from Nakuru to Kisumu port.

On Wednesday, the agency managing director Philip Mainga and senior government officials led by Nyanza Regional Commissioner Magu Mutandika told The Standard that there is a plan to make the line viable.

Security features

Speaking during inspection of the ICD, the officials said construction of the line that connects the depot to the main railway line from Nakuru is complete.

Mainga said the only installation of more security features at the depot is remaining. “We want to be able to move our goods to Kisumu, Port Bell, Jinja in Uganda as well as Mwanza in Tanzania through the port,” he said.

A fuel tanker for the ships docked at the port has already been introduced by Kenya Pipeline Company. The officials said the tanker has been supplying fuel for export to MV Uhuru.

Haul products

Documents seen by The Standard indicate that the company has been relying on MV Uhuru and MV Kahawa to haul the products to neighboring countries with each vessel carrying 22 wagons with a capacity of 1.1 million liters.

The Regional Commissioner lauded the corporation for completing the project. “We believe the volume of cargo will increase once the project is completed and it will be a blessing for the region,” said Mutindika.

Kenya Railways plans to introduce commuter services to complement the cargo.

Plans to revive passenger services entail the construction of a new passenger terminal in Kisumu complete with ticketing rooms and other amenities.

A spot check by The Standard established that workers are already constructing the main terminal which is expected to be complete by April.

Fort Tenan, the station built in the early 1980s, is being renovated.

Mainga said they plan to revive the 17 stations along the Kisumu-Nakuru railway line. Commuters have to wait until the end of the year to enjoy passenger services.

“The stations are going to be commercial hubs for our customers and within a month, all the stations will be working. However, passenger trains will only be introduced by the end of the year,” he said.

The revival of the stations will economically boost areas that turned into ghost towns following the collapse of the railway services in the early 1990s.

Once bustling with life, Kibos, Koru, Miwani, Fort Tenan and Muhoroni shopping centres in Kisumu County are now desolate.

Only rusty, dilapidated buildings put up by the corporation several decades ago remain in some of the towns.

Earmarked or demolition

Scrap metal dealers took advantage of the situation to vandalize a bridge and about 26km of the line next to Miwani town a few weeks ago.

Yesterday, the corporation earmarked business premises in Koru for demolition after they were found to have encroached on the railway corridor.

The proprietors were given two-days notice to vacate. 

Residents believe the revival of the railway line and the port will boost the region’s economy.

Sugarcane farmers in the Nyando sugar-belt are optimistic that the railway line and plans by the government to lease out three struggling State-owned millers - Miwani, Chemelil, and Muhoroni - will change their fortunes.

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