The government has set out to upgrade the current diesel powered Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) to electric by the year 2021 before linking it with the Uganda and Rwanda electric railway line.
Speaking during the launch of the second trip for the Madaraka Express Passenger Service on the Nairobi-Mombasa route at the SGR Nairobi terminus in Syokimau yesterday, Transport and Infrastructure Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said the government opted to build a diesel traction rail line, with an option to upgrade to electric because of the insufficient power currently in the country.
“We could have built an electric line but we were not 100 per cent confident of supply of electric power. That is why we decided to start with diesel but provided a provision to upgrade it later to electric traction in the next three to four years,” he said.
“That is why even Uganda and Rwanda who are planning to build electric lines have no problem because we have explained how the lines will link up,” Macharia said. Kenya Railways Managing director Atanas Maina said the government has already projected that the upgrade to electric traction line will cost an estimated 20 per cent of the current cost of SGR line.
In June Kenya and Uganda agreed on when to complete the SGR construction of the Naivasha –Malava and Malava –Kampala. Uganda opted for the electric traction after carrying out a study in China and India, which found out that the energy consumption during operations, is about 8.82Kwh per 1,000 Gross ton Kilometer (GTKM) and 2.5L per 1,000 GTKM for electric and diesel traction respectively.
Based on the current cost of diesel and electricity in Uganda, it is cheaper to operate an electric locomotive. The CS noted that the SGR service has been a revelation since it was launched in June and has been hailed as a huge milestone in Africa and global.
Two weeks, Kenya and Tunisia were the only two African countries that were invited to the G7 meeting for Ministers, where the country’s infrastructure success like the SGR was discussed. So far, the service has moved over 337,000 passengers between the port city of Mombasa and Nairobi, with the number growing daily.
“We are currently performing at over 90 per cent with regards to passenger numbers. By introducing this additional service we expect to measure up to the type of service the public has demanded since we launched the passenger service in June,” the CS said.
The new service which will depart the Nairobi and Mombasa Termini at 3:30 pm will act as an express train and complement the existing morning service which has now been transformed into an inter county train service, departing at 8am from both Nairobi and Mombasa termini, and stopping at all the seven intermediate stations.
The function was also attended by the Chinese ambassador to Kenya Liu Xianfa, China Road and Bridge Corporation Operations Chairman, Li Quanhuai and Principal Secretary for Transport Prof Paul Maringa.