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Why Uhuru, Raila train ride to Kisumu has been cancelled

By Brian Okoth | May 26th 2021

The two leaders were scheduled to travel to Kisumu from Naivasha via rail on Sunday, May 30, 2021. [File, Standard]

Plans to have President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga ride in the maiden Naivasha to Kisumu revamped train on Sunday, May 30, have been cancelled, The Standard can authoritatively report.

A credible source within the President’s circle has told The Standard that engineering setbacks have led to the cancellation.

“There’s a problem getting spare parts of the train the leaders were to travel in. We have now decided to cancel the planned trip. However, the launch would be done later by the President,” said the informant, who spoke in confidence.

This year’s Madaraka Day celebrations, scheduled for Tuesday, June 1, will be held in Kisumu County.

The original plan indicated the President was to open the new railway terminus next to Kisumu Cotton Mills (Kicomi) on Sunday.

This was one of the projects he was scheduled to unveil in his five-day tour of Kisumu.

The Standard now understands Kenyatta and Odinga will fly to the lakeside city, with plans to launch the Naivasha to Kisumu metre gauge line now put on hold.

The Naivasha to Kisumu train route has remained out of use since May 4, 2012.

The halting of operations was to allow track repairs, the government said back in the day.

Until the May 2012 cancellation, the train had been running, then not running, then running again.

It originally plied the route three times a week. However, in 2010, the trips were reduced to once per week. However, in 2011, the three weekly shuttles were restored.

It was, however, temporarily cancelled from February 2012 until April 2012, but it resumed running on April 2, 2012.

Between April and May 2012, the trips were, again, reduced to only two per week.

The renovation of the Naivasha-Kisumu-Malaba century-old metre gauge railway began in July 2020, with the government allocating Sh3.5 billion to the project.

Initial plans by the State were that the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) network be extended to Kisumu, from Naivasha. However, the government shelved the plans after China refused to approve a Sh380 billion loan borrowed by Kenya.

China and Kenya had, in August 2018, agreed on a financing deal of the 267-km line. However, when President Kenyatta visited China in September 2018, China, ostensibly, declined to approve the loan. The reason for the refusal remains unknown to the public.

As a result, the government opted to drop the SGR line extension plans, and, instead concentrate on renovating the Naivasha-Kisumu old metre gauge railway line.

The State dropped a private financier and a Chinese contractor who had quoted over Sh50 billion to renovate the railway – a figure that was nearly three times the government’s initiation budget of Sh21 billion.

In June 2020, Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said the Naivasha to Malaba railway would, beginning July 2020, be renovated at an estimated cost of Sh3.5 billion to help reduce the number of cargo trucks on the Kenyan roads.

In the 2021-2022 financial year budget, the government set aside Sh700 million for the rehabilitation of the Nakuru-Kisumu railway line.

It now remains unclear when construction works on the line, which has been out of operation for nearly a decade, will be completed, especially after the President put on hold the launch, which was scheduled for this Sunday (May 30, 2021).

In his upcoming tour of Kisumu County, Kenyatta will be commissioning the Kisumu Port, the Sh350 million Jomo Kenyatta International Stadium, the Lake Basin Development Authority Mall, a ship at the dry dock, the marine school and the Uhuru Business Park that will accommodate over 10, 000 traders.

The Head of State is also expected to officially open the Mbita Causeway.

He will then lead Madaraka Day celebrations, which are to be held at the newly constructed Jomo Kenyatta International Stadium.

On May 19, Interior ministry Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho led a delegation from the national celebrations committee to tour the stadium to assess its status before June 1. The team noted that the works were on schedule.

Addressing journalists after the tour of the facility, Kibicho explained that due to Covid-19 restrictions, a capped number of attendees will be allowed inside the stadium.

“Only 3,000 people will be allowed inside the stadium during the event, while 20,000 others will be hosted in two grounds where the event will be streamed live,” he said.

The Interior PS was accompanied by Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o and other government officials.

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