Kenya trains eyes on mid-level economic status with standard gauge railway
Kenya’s Standard Gauge Railway, currently under construction, is the most expensive transport project the country has undertaken in recent times, opening up an efficient transport corridor to catalyze Kenya’s growth into 2030 and beyond.
The first phase from Mombasa to Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway is complete and the trains are operating between the Miritini SGR Terminus and Syokimau SGR terminus.
However, there are plans to extend the SGR from Syokimau to the old Railways station in Nairobi CBD, and another extension to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
Phase 2A, which is under construction, will extend the SGR from Nairobi to Naivasha. This will be followed by another phase that will link Naivasha and Kisumu and then Malaba.
The current line has already demonstrated the transformative power of a railway line. The multi-billion-dollar investment will also run alongside the old British-built line and is to be extended to West Africa as part of the Great Equatorial Land bridge, connecting the East African coast to the West African Atlantic coast.
Analysts have hyped the SGR as the next game changer in East Africa whose impact will be likened to that of the ‘Lunatic Express’ during its time more than a century ago.
The Mombasa-Nairobi section is only the first part of a much larger project. The standard gauge railway is planned to run between Mombasa and Malaba and eventually link to other major East African cities; Kampala, Kigali, and Juba.
With this, the Kenyan government is hoping to strengthen ties between the corresponding countries creating a network of viral links between ports and key cities in East Africa.
It involves construction of 700 km of standard-gauge track, 33 stations, and dozens of wagons and locomotives. Just like its huge cost pegged at $4.99bn, so are the expectations that it will transform transport in East Africa and strengthen cross-border political
While appearing on the recent CNN Market Place, Atanas Maina, Managing Director of Kenya Railways, termed SGR as the most significant game changer that we have ever seen.
He explained that the cost of the investment is roughly six percent of the Kenya’s GDP, to the program. He goes on, “The bulk of the cargo has gone to the road. We’re looking by the year 2025, we should be able to achieve up to 40 per cent through a scheduled network.’’
Aly Khan-Satchu, CEO of Rich Management Ltd who was also on the Weekly program, said that the real benefit will be from the spillover effect, the industrialization that will happen around this railway, the cheap power that people will plug into, the ability to access this big global market.
They told CNN that the expansion is expected to take trucks off the road and cargo back onto the tracks, with only five percent of cargo currently being transported by rail.
Also, Felipe Manga, research, and planning manager at the Kenya Railways Corporation said “The benefits are so huge. Kenya is the entry point for three landlocked countries, and what happens here directly affects those countries. This will create efficient regional links, improve business within the EAC and foster strong multilateral relationships.”
Many Kenyans, regional importers, and exporters have already inbuilt the SGR into their 2018 logistics model. Any delay in completion would imply delayed cost savings to them.
As part of the logistics chain, its users based on time, cost and place benefits will practically measure SGR efficiency. In other words, the time it takes to transport goods from say Mombasa port to Nairobi, the total cost and the coverage of the current and potential economic engines.
In the long run, the benefits arising from the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project still outstrip its cost by far.