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New railway master plan unveiled

NAIROBI September 8 – The government Monday unveiled a master plan aimed at improving the railway system to match with global standards, enable greater load capacity and faster cargo transportation within the East African region.

Transport Minister, Chirau Ali Mwakwere said that the plan, which was prepared by Standard Gauge Railway Consultative Group, would involve construction of a new rail network in line with world standards which dictate an in-rail width of 1.4 meters.

“Eighty five percent of railways in the world are constructed on standard gauge; we need to have a standard gauge all over East Africa,” Mwakwere stated.

A gauge is the width between railway lines, and Kenya currently uses a rail system with a 1meter width, which according to experts is ‘obsolete’ and ‘unproductive’.

The consultative group’s chairman, Dr Manu Chandaria said the new plan estimates the construction of a standard gauge railway between Nairobi and Kampala at Sh3.5 billion, which could be raised through various means that would be debated by the group.

The consultative group hopes to compile a detailed design feasibility study by July 2009, which would also include funding details and an operating structure.

According to Chandaria, funding and implementation of the design is expected to be complete by the close of 2009.

In the design, the group has proposed construction of new lines from Mombasa to Bujumbura, via Kampala and Kigali; and Nairobi to Addis Ababa through Northern Kenya.

Another line would be build from Dar-es-salaam through Isaka to complete a more detailed network of the Eastern region which would enable one to ‘‘move within the region in ten hours,” according to Chandaria.

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The cost of a single line electrified rail was estimated at $1,020,000 (Sh71.5 million) per kilometer and a double line electrified rail at $1,850,000 (Sh129.6 billion) per kilometer.
“The idea was to engage the government to adopt the standard gauge for future railway developments and prioritise infrastructural development in its future plans,” said Chandaria.

Mwakwere noted there was overwhelming demand for railway services, considering the fact that the current system has a capacity of transporting only 6 percent of the cargo at the port, at a speed of between 30 and 40 Km/hr.

The proposed system, according to the minister, has the capacity to transport between 900 tonnes at an average speed of 450Km/hr.

He said the Rift Valley Railways concessionaire would however continue with upgrading the current system to ensure that business continues.

He also assured that the government would be ready to purchase land from individuals to facilitate the construction.

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