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New railway to transform Nyanza

 A passenger train derailed at Mamboleo in Kisumu County. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

The economic fortunes of the agriculturally rich Gusii region and South Nyanza are set for a significant boost after the government started outlaying plans for a rail network in the region.

The move will see Kenya Railways build the first-ever railway line in the region to complement the Kisumu-Nairobi rail.

Shipping and Logistics has established that plans for the mega investment are at an advanced stage. The project is among key initiatives President William Ruto’s administration is exploring to breathe life into the region’s economy.

Both Kisii and Nyamira counties and parts of Migori County are the breadbasket for Western Kenya. However, lack of a proper transport network has made farmers and entrepreneurs to sell most of their products locally.

Last week, a beacon of hope swept through the region as senior government officials started conducting feasibility studies for the project.

According to Kenya Railways officials, the government is keen to extend the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) into the region to unlock the economic potential of the Lake Region Economic Bloc (LREB).

This is happening as Kisumu County also intensifies its bid to convince the government to extend the SGR network into the region to replace the outdated Meter Gauge Railway (MGR).

The proposed phase 2 (b) SGR will connect Naivasha-Narok-Bomet-Kericho-Nyamira-Kisumu and Malaba.

Last month, officials from the corporation led by John Maina made a geographical exploration of the expected passage of the railway line in the Gusii region.

The line is expected to pass through the Nyamira aggregation and industrial park which is currently under construction.

The park is being constructed in the Sironga area, and it is expected that the the new SGR will make it possible for the economic centre to do business with much ease.

However, Maina and his team could not disclose whether similar explorations were being made in other counties in the Lake Region zone.

A senior official at the corporation told Shipping and Logistics that plans are underway to revamp rail services in the region with a focus on Gusii and South Nyanza.

The two regions are also home to lucrative minerals such as copper, soapstone and gold. “The establishment of a railway line will improve transport. It will be easier to transport bulk cargo from the region to other places,” said the official.

South Nyanza counties of Nyamira, Kisii, Migori, Homabay, and Bomet are some of the devolved areas in the block which are not connected to a railway line.

Nyamira Governor Amos Nyaribo said the railway will be a significant game changer in the economic growth in the area.

“If the dream of being served with a railway line comes to reality, then we will be assured of multiplied opportunities in industrial growth as well as increased business opportunities,” the governor said.

Accompanying the Kenya Railways officers were engineers from Nairobi, County Executives Stephen Oboso (Lands), Jones Omwenga (Roads and Public Works), Bernard Maina (Trade) and Josphat Gori (Chief Officer, Lands).

Also present during the exploration of the probable sites was the contractor, Lee Khan, who will take charge of the project.

Area MPs have lauded the program which they said is long overdue. “We have waited for the Railway line for far too long. We hope the rail plans now come to fruition,” Nyamoko said.

West Mugirango MP Stephen Mogaka said the SGR would increase the value of locally produced agricultural goods, which he said will access the market in major trading centers across the country.

“An SGR will be the perfect deal for local tea and coffee factories which will have a swift transportation solution to Mombasa and Nairobi where their foreign buying centres are,” Mogaka said.

The looming construction of the railway line has also sparked excitement among investors with the value of the properties expected to shoot.

Nyamira County has an estimated population of around 700,000 people, with agriculture being the key economic activity for the majority of the population.

Four months ago, President William Ruto launched the aggregation industrial park whose initial cost shall be Sh1 billion.

Once the railway line, dubbed the Southern Corridor, reaches Nyamira County, it will ease the transportation of goods from Nyamira County Aggregation and Industrial Park to local and international markets.

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