China’s belt drives Nairobi-Mombasa rail link

By Mike Hayes04 April 2017

The construction of Kenya’s first standard gauge railway (SGR) line is due to be completed by the end of the year.

China Road and Bridge Corporation – a subsidiary of the state-owned China Communications Construction Company – is the main contractor on the project, and the Chinese government has funded 90% of the US$4 billion contract.

The work, being carried out under the auspices of the Kenya Railways Corporation, comprises a 609 km SGR line, between Nairobi and the port of Mombasa, on the Indian Ocean. State-of-the-art passenger stations are being constructed at Mombasa and Nairobi, while five further stations will be located at Mariakani, Voi, MtitoAndei, Sultan Hamud and AthiRiver. The line is set to run parallel to the existing meter gauge line and generally parallel to the Mombasa-Nairobi road.

The rail link is part of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Kenya Vision 2030 agenda, aligned with a tripartite agreement his government made in 2013, with Uganda and Rwanda, to fast-track the development of the railway to their respective capital cities.

The latest project follows numerous road infrastructure initiatives, as well as pipeline, oil development and geothermal power projects in the country.

While the investment from the Kenyan government is significant, it represents just 10% of the total value of the project, while the 90% funding from China represents one of the country’s largest investments in east Africa.

Once completed, the rail network is expected to facilitate the transport of cargo from the port in Mombasa to the Ugandan border in as little as a tenth the time it currently takes travelling by road.

Earlier this year, Kenya’s transport secretary, James Macharia, said as many as 56 locomotives – which are currently being built in China – will operate on the line, allowing for the future transport of at least 40% of all cargo from the port.

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