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KR attempts ambitious rail upgrade

NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 15 – Nairobi residents will enjoy a fast and modern commuter rail service after the completion of a new ambitious project by Kenya Railways in partnership with INFRACO that was signed into action on Wednesday.

Kenya Railways managing director Nduva Muli said that the project is in line with the company’s mandate of improving the quality of transport in the country.

“At Kenya Railways we strive to provide better commuter services for the country and this project goes a long way in achieving that,” he said.

Transport Minister Chirau Ali Mwakwere has said that the project is timely as the population of Nairobi is going up.

“Nairobi has over six million residents and the city urgently requires a mass transit system that would serve its residents better, hence the need for this project.”

Mr Mwakwere added: “It will be possible for people living in towns like Thika, Limuru and Kitengela to take comfortable train rides to the city greatly reducing traffic congestion in the city.”

The joint venture came as a result of the overwhelming demand for a commuter rail service within Nairobi and urgent need to increase capacity and modernise train services.

Highlights of the project include replacing the existing locomotive hauled trains with diesel electric multiple units DEMUs. According to Mr Muli, the new trains would prove more efficient than the older ones.

“DEMUs have higher loading capacity, reduced emissions and higher operating speeds which improve efficiency.”

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Another highlight would be to construct a new line that would serve the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

“This development will reduce the transit times for passengers to and from the airport to twenty minutes, down from roughly one hour on traffic filled days,” added Mr Mwakwere.

The project is also aimed at reducing the number of passengers per coach from 206 to 100 to improve comfort on the trains.

Mr Muli played down any fears of complications arising due to the concession agreement signed with Rift Valley Railways (RVR).

“This project has been well choreographed to coincide with expiry of the agreement signed with RVR thus the project implemented without any hitches.”

Valentine Chitalu one of the Directors of INFRACO told journalists that the company would undertake the initial high upfront costs and risks involved with the projects early stages.

“We will take care of the high initial costs, hastening the process in order to attract private investors to jump onto the opportunity to invest in Kenya,” he said.

With the upgrading of the rail network and the new locomotives, Kenya Railways projects that it will raise the passenger capacity from the current 19,000 to over 100,000 daily.

Areas to benefit from the project include Limuru, Kikuyu, Dagoretti, Kibera, Embakasi and Athi River. Others are Thika, Ruiru, Kahawa, Dandora and Makadara.

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The upgrading of the Nairobi commuter rail transport will make use of the exsisting rail network apart from where new lines shall be constructed and will be complete in 24 months.

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