By James Anyanzwa
The Government is considering international financing to fund the upgrade of Nairobi’s commuter rail system.
This comes after an ambitious Sh17 billion ($200million) bond plan failed to materialise due to a harsh macroeconomic environment.
“We have suspended the bond but not the project. The project is going on,” said Mugo Kibati, head of Government’s long-term development plan dubbed Vision 2030.
KRC wants to build a 7km link from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) to the city centre in order to ease frequent traffic jams in Nairobi that are hampering commercial activity in the country.
Dubbed the ‘metropolitan rail transport system’, the project is part of KRC’s Railway Master Plan, which seeks to overhaul the entire rail transport system in the country by 2050.
The first phase of the project, which is being funded by the Exchequer, will see a commuter railway station built in Syokimau, and the acquisition of ultra modern locomotive engines and wagons. The current railway line is to be modernised and expanded — with a line one planned from Lamu to Southern Sudan and Ethiopia. Syokimau station which will act as a link between the road and the railway system will have a parking space to hold up to 1,000 cars, where motorists will park and take trains to Nairobi’s central business district.
The station will also be a drop off and pick up point for commuters using public service vehicles. The rail project also includes an upgrade to 160km of existing track in Nairobi.
Inadequate and inefficient infrastructure in the energy, roads, ports and railways networks has become serious constraints to the country’s efforts to accelerate economic growth and reduce poverty.
The inefficiencies of the existing network have been blamed for the transport disorder and overcrowding in Nairobi caused by matatus.
The new rail system, which will connect Nairobi’s CBD with JKIA and a proposed Golf City along Uhuru Highway, will see the introduction of modern coaches commuting at the intervals of 30 minutes. This will be a great improvement to the current situation, where old commuter trains that mainly operate in the mornings and evenings, and ferry a mere five million commuters annually.