The Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) express passenger train stopover in Voi will boost trade and tourism in Taita Taveta County, Governor Andrew Mwadime has said.
Mwadime said this after the Makadara passenger SGR train made its maiden stopover at Voi on Thursday, sparking celebrations from local and tourism sector players.
On Sunday, Mwadime said the SGR train services would complement the Voi-Mwatate-Taveta metre gauge currently being rehabilitated.
Mwadime called on the State to speed up the rehabilitation of the once-neglected railway line and the Ikanga Airstrip in Voi town to boost the local economy.
The 127km (kilometre) railway line links Mombasa port and Northern Tanzania.
Kenya Ports Authority is constructing an Inland Container Depot (ICD) on a 50-acre land in Taveta.
“Voi town is an ideal regional investment corridor, and the stopover of the passenger train will further open the county for more investment opportunities and create wealth for poverty and unemployment creation,” he said.
According to KPA, 232,000 tonnes of cargo headed to Tanzania passed through Mombasa in 2021, with 1,000 tonnes going to Burundi.
Most of the cargo passed through the Taveta border point.
The Kenya Ports Authority has also secured a 50-acre land at the Taveta-Holili border crossing where it will build the inland freight hub.
Mwadime flagged off both the trains from Mombasa to Nairobi and from Nairobi to Mombasa respectively, in the evening accompanied by County Commissioner Loyford Kibaara, County Police Commander Patrick Okeri, MCAs Kennedy Mwalenga, Azhar Din and Mohammed Dudu.
He said apart from tourism, mining activities, and small-scale businesses will also thrive to help improve the socio-economic status of the local community.
The county boss said he had lobbied for the start of the passenger train services stopover while he was the Mwatate MP. “I made noise in Parliament and during my 2022 campaigns over the stopover of the passenger train services in Voi town. It is now a dream come true,” he said at the station.
Kenya Railways Corporate Affairs Manager Jacky Abuga said the stopover of the train will spur economic growth in the region.
“There is now a great potential for the county to grow and contribute to the national economy. We are looking forward to business and trade investment opportunities to be created to make a difference in the lives of the local community,” said the official.
Ms Abuga said the county is among devolved units along the Nairobi-Mombasa highway with increased passenger and freight services, which will help raise the standards of the Coastal people to improve their lives.
Kibaara said Voi town will now be a major tourist destination.
The administrator stated that railway transport was cheap and reliable compared to expensive road transport.
He noted that the cross-border trade activities will now progress and businesses continue to grow in the region and the entire Coastal region at large.
A member of the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry Kenneth Zenge said rail services are the only cheaper means of transport and its revival will play a big role in transforming the lives of the local community.
“The revival of the train services will be a cheaper means of transport. It will play a big role in improving the socio-economic status of the local community. The services are to the local community,” said Zenge.