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Plan to fully use railway to ferry cargo from port kicks up a storm

By Antony Gitonga and Joackim Bwana | Jan 21st 2022 | 2 min read


Cargo being offloaded from the SGR train to the Meter Gauge Railway cargo train at the Inland Container Depot in Mai Mahiu Naivasha for onward transportation to Malaba. [Antony Gitonga, Standard]

Coastal towns along the northern corridor are expected to be hit by another wave of economic hardship once Kenya Railways starts hauling cargo directly from Mombasa to Malaba.

It would however be the opposite in Rift Valley, especially in Nakuru, where area Governor Lee Kinyanjui has said it could accelerate an economic boom in the new city.

“We expect the clearing and forward operations to be conducted around Longonot and Mai Mahiu which is now one of the fastest-growing towns in the country,” he said.

On Monday, Kenya Railways Managing Director Phillip Maingi said the move would reduce the time taken to transport cargo from Mombasa to Malaba by trucks from the current four days to 28 hours.

“This will not only reduce traffic on the roads but also cut down the expenses incurred by companies and individuals while ferrying cargo,” he said during the launch of the trial train from Naivasha.

Yesterday cargo interveners in Mombasa, said the new program would deal a blow to the road transport sector which is dependent on the last mile business to remain afloat.

Kenya Ships Agents Association also said for the directive to work and avoid extra charges for importers, KR must guarantee seamless connectivity of transport from the SGR to Meter Gauge Railway at Naivasha.

KSAA Chief Executive Officer Juma Tellah said a thorough bill of lading system (TBL) should also be introduced to guarantee security and safety of the cargo.

“We opposed it last year it because the systems were not in place. If implemented haphazardly it could lead to delays which would attract demurrages,” he said.

Under the new arrangement, cargo collected from Mombasa port will be delivered to the Inland Container Depot in Mai Mahiu using the Standard Gauge Railway. Once at the ICD, it will be transferred to the newly constructed Mai Mahiu-Longonot railway line for onward transportation to Malaba through the meter-gauge railway line. “There were concerns in Uganda over the high tariffs the country was charging but we have reviewed this by around 50 per cent,” said Maingi.

But Samson Makhoha, chairman of the truck drivers’ association, said there are fears massive job losses.

“It will mean job losses for tens of drivers, mechanics and even insurance companies that insure this cargo and vehicles,” he said, adding, “towns along the Mombasa-Nairobi-Malaba highway that depended on truck drivers will suffer a painful death.” However, the chairman Naivasha Road Safety James Kabono noted that 80 per cent of accidents and traffic-snarl along the Mai Mahiu-Limuru road were caused by the trailers.

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