NAIROBI, Kenya, May 31 – The Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) passenger train dubbed the ‘Madaraka Express’ has finally begun its maiden journey to Nairobi with President Uhuru Kenyatta describing it as a new chapter in Kenya’s history.
Speaking before launching the service, the Head of State said it marked 120 years since the Lunatic Express was launched by the British Government.
“We embark today on a new chapter in Kenya’s history when the British kicked off the train, the train that was characterised and criticised by all those in the British Parliament as a train to nowhere but a train that ultimately formed the basis of the new nation of Kenya. It was then known as the Lunatic Express,” President Kenyatta said.
He stated that the SGR will create new opportunities and jobs for Kenyans as well as improve the economy.
“Today, 122 years later and despite again a lot of criticism, we do not celebrate not the Lunatic Express but the Madaraka Express that will begin to re-shape the story of Kenya for the next 100 years. I am proud to be associated with this day,” he said.
He urged Kenyans to desist from complaining about the project saying it will benefit all Kenyans.
“I want to request all Kenyans because we all love to complain that this is just the first day and there are bound to be challenges, but let us join together and stop complaining,” he stated.
His sentiments were echoed by his deputy William Ruto who described it as a milestone in the country.
“They say failure is an orphan. Success has many fathers. There are many others who dreamed about this facility. There are others who thought about it. There are many who planned about it but it is the Jubilee Government under your administration that has made this a reality,” he said.
“And this reality that this morning we are witnessing is a milestone in the development of our country,” he stated.
President Kenyatta said the SGR will make the Port of Mombasa more efficient and will enhance the performance of the facility where the Jubilee Government has invested more than Sh60 billion in the last four years.
The new Chinese-built route is aimed at cementing Kenya’s position as the gateway to East Africa and is billed as the biggest infrastructure project since independence and a key selling point for the ruling Jubilee party ahead of the August elections.
The first cargo train on the SGR tracks carrying more than 150 containers arrived in Nairobi at midnight, having been launched by President Kenyatta in Mombasa.
The train will be transporting up to 1,200 passengers daily, charging between Sh700 to Sh3,000 to and from the coastal city and will be managed by the China Communications Construction Company for five years before its hand over to the Kenyan Government.