NAIROBI, July 31- A 13-member consultative group has been constituted to spearhead the development of an East Africa Railway Master Plan.
The team, which includes high profile individuals such as Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE) Chief Executive Officer Chris Mwebesa and the Kenya Association of Manufacturers chief Betty Maina, is tasked with ensuring the successful implementation of a standard gauge rail network for the region.
Other members include Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) Managing Director Abdalla Mwaruwa, Kenya Investment Authority Managing Director, Susan Kikwai and the Chairman of Media Council of Kenya, Wachira Waruru.
A Kenyan Master Plan was unveiled recently by Kenya Railways. It is an ambitious strategy aimed at setting up a safer, faster and more reliable railway network, which will serve Kenya and the region up to the year 2050 and beyond.
A study to pave way for the funding options and strategies for implementation is expected to be completed by July 2009.
Among the means being mooted to raise funds include infrastructure bonds, joint ventures, loans, build-operate-transfer (BOT) and a government-funded Open Access System.
The team will lobby Kenya and the neighbouring governments to ensure connection between Mombasa and Bujumbura in Burundi is completed in the first phase of the project at an estimated Sh200 billion.
“Funding is not a problem for this project as far as we are concerned. What we need is willpower and commitment from the stakeholders including governments involved,” Manu Chandaria a team member said.
A secretariat will soon be set up to implement the proposals of the group.
The proposed rail system, which will be electric and is expected to serve over 250 million people in the Eastern Africa is wider and can take more than twice the amount of cargo being hauled over the current one.
According to Solomon Ouna, a consultant Engineer at Kenya Railways, wagons on the proposed track will carry 100 tonnes compared to 40 tonnes on the current network.
“The system is also expected to speed up haulage of cargo by over seven times,” Ouna added.