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New hub lifts Kisumu’s railway and port revival

By Harold Odhiambo | September 2nd 2021
ODM leader Raila Odinga flanked by Ethiopian ambassador Meles Alem and Kisumu Governor Anyang' Nyong'o during the flagging of of the dredging exercise at Kisumu port on January 23, 2021. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Kenya Railways is stepping up its bid to breath life into the railway lines it has rehabilitated to serve Western Kenya with a commercial centre at its Kisumu terminus. 

The railway operator has completed the construction of a 50,000 square feet commercial facility dubbed Uhuru Business Complex at the newly built passenger terminus next to the port.

This is even as it nears the completion of rehabilitation works on the metre gauge railway to Kisumu that is expected to start operations by end of this year. 

The complex is expected to help integrate rail transport and water transport. This is through cargo storage offered to traders keen on transporting goods into neighbouring countries through the lake. The corporation believes the facility will improve logistics management. 

Other than warehousing, Kenya Railways said the new commercial facility will also provide opportunities for commercial retail spaces including supermarkets, eateries and other businesses. 

“The hub has approximately 50,000 square feet of commercial space and is expected to provide passengers with an enhanced experience,” said Kenya Railways in an invitation to business interested in taking up space at the business hub to make their applications by September 10.  

“The business complex will create business opportunities for small and medium enterprises and create over 2,000 jobs for the residents.” 

The complex, Kenya Railways said, will play a significant role in receiving dry goods from the Inland Container Depot (ICD) at Naivasha.

Some of the goods from the ICD at Naivasha, which authorities project will receive four SGR trains daily, are expected to reach the Kisumu Port through the Nakuru-Kisumu MGR for onward transport to neighbouring countries. 

Kenya Railways has also completed the construction of an Inland Container Depot at Kibos in Kisumu. 

As part of the efforts to boost transport through rail and Lake Victoria, Kenya Railways flagship ferry MV Uhuru is already sailing to neighbouring countries. The vessel was revived last year and is expected to play a vital role in ferrying cargo delivered at the new facility and destined for neighbouring countries.

KR plans to boost cargo transport and expects this to give the revived rail a solid footing and complement Kisumu Port to enable the country to tap into the region’s export market. 

The construction of the new passenger terminus at the Kisumu Railway station and its components incorporate provisions for cargo is vital in the quest to make both the 216 KM Kisumu-MGR and the port viable. 

Already, ticketing offices have been built at the station, and Kenya Railways has also conducted a dry run using a passenger train to gauge the effectiveness of the facility. 

Passenger transport is likely to be reintroduced by November this year. 

When The Standard visited the station earlier this week, workers were completing some of the remaining components of the station. The line through the station has already been levelled using ballast stones. 

A few meters away from the station, Kenya Railways engineers are racing against time to complete the Kisumu-Butere Railway line. 

The rehabilitation of the 69 KM line is also at an advanced stage and traverses Siaya, Vihiga, Kisumu and Kakamega counties. 

According to Kenya Railways, plans are underway to revive six railway stations along the line. In the Kisumu-Nakuru line, the major stations are complete, including the renovation of the Fort Tenan railway station. 

About a month ago, Kenya Railways officials led by Managing Director Philip Mainga decried vandalism in parts of the line, claiming it was a setback. 

Buoyed by the progress they have made, Kenya Railways now gearing up to restarting operations to Kisumu and hopefully return to a robust service that thrived in Western Kenya in the 1980s and 1990s. 

“The return of passenger services from Nairobi to Kisumu and through to Butere is expected to be operationalised within the current year. The new Kisumu railway station has provision for parking and will integrate with road and other modes of transport,” said Kenya Railways. 

The corporation has in the recent past undertaken major rehabilitation works on the metre gauge railway, with the Nairobi-Nanyuki railway line completed and operational.  

When operational the railway to Kisumu will give cargo owners who prefer moving goods on rail connectivity with the Standard Gauge Railway, which currently terminates at Mai Mahiu. Users from other East African countries will be able to move cargo across Lake Victoria using the rehabilitated Kisumu port and the available vessels that move cargo through the lake. 

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