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Train closes missing link to seaport

Deemed the missing link to the port of Mombasa, the Sh327 billion Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) will lower cost of business and increase competitiveness of the port.

SGR will complement other key developments projects undertaken at the port among them construction of the second container terminal, expansion of the berth 19, equipment modernisation, dredging of the channel and the upgrading of the Internal Container Depot (ICD) in Nairobi.

Kenya Railways (KR) Managing Director Atanas Maina said the combined transport capacity of the SGR and the existing line will account for approximately 45 per cent of total freight.

The SGR was the missing link between Kenya and East African communities. SGR is a joint regional infrastructural project being implemented under a protocol signed by Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan to connect Mombasa to the interior. However, each country is expected to implement its section of the project.

KR has already received the first fleet of locomotives, freight wagons and passenger coaches. The first phase of SGR, a length of 609 kilometres entailed delivery of 56 locomotives, 40 passenger coaches and 1,620 freight wagons.

Coupled with improved cargo handling infrastructure, SGR will also help eliminate non-tariff barriers that have been synonymous with the northern corridor.

Cargo owners will kiss goodbye, nightmares caused by numerous roadblocks along the northern corridor. The road blocks have been turned into a haven for receiving bribes by officers manning them.

The line will help dismantle corruption cartels at weighbridges which have been turned into illegal courts arresting and charging truck drivers. Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) Managing Director Catherine Mturi said SGR would reduce pressure on the northern corridor roads as the rail recoup its share of cargo thereby boosting competitiveness of the port of Mombasa.

“SGR will be a game changer for the Port of Mombasa. It will evacuate more cargo and therefore attract more shipment. It will also grow into a trans-shipment hub for the region,” she said.

It will have a capacity to handle 4,000 tonnes per train compared to 1,000 tonnes by the existing Metre Gauge Railway and 36 tonnes by road prompting upgrades of existing container handling depots.

Upgrade of the Internal Container Depot (ICD) in Nairobi near Embakasi could be complete by year end with the SGR delivering its first consignment beginning January. ICD upgrade will create extra capacity to handle increased cargo volumes.

Currently, the Embakasi ICD handles only 180,000 Twenty Foot Equivalent Units, a small quantity compared to the capacity the SGR can deliver, thus the need for expansion.

Cargo owners will clear goods evacuated from the Port of Mombasa through the ICD upon payment of all due taxes. Kenya has secured Sh359 billion extra funding from China’s Exim Bank for the second phase of the project that will be from Naivasha to Kisumu. From Kisumu, the SGR line will go to Malaba where it will connect to Kampala.

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