Robin Obino @obinorobin
The plan to open up the country’s hinterland for investments and trade is inching closer to reality with construction work on the Nairobi-Naivasha Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project gathering pace.
President Uhuru Kenyatta on Saturday witnessed the installation of bridge girders across the Nairobi National Park which is a critical part of the ongoing extension of the SGR line and asked the contractor, China Communications Construction Company, to stick to the June 2019 completion timeline.
“We want to ride on the Nairobi-Naivasha SGR on May 31 next year, and then go to Kajiado for Madaraka Day the next day,” he said at Kyang’ombe (DK2 Project Site) in Nairobi. The President said all components of the phase 2A of SGR should be completed by June 2019 so that they can be launched together with the railway line on the same day.
Speaking at the event, Chen Yun, the Vice President of the Communications Construction Company, assured the President that he would do his best to meet the deadline.
“We look out to complete the Nairobi to Naivasha SGR by June 2019. We will also employ more residents of Kajiado and Narok counties where the rail is passing through,” he said.
The Nairobi-Naivasha SGR stretch is expected to de-congest the accident-prone highway between the two towns. The project, 49 per cent complete, is expected to cost Sh150 billion.
Extension of the SGR is also expected to benefit, among others, the proposed Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in Suswa and Mai Mahiu, tourism, agro-processing and industrial development in the geothermal-rich Rift Valley.
The 120km Phase 2A is expected to terminate in Naivasha and will be the first of the three segments that make up the second phase of the SGR between Nairobi and Malaba.
It will pass through five counties of Nairobi, Kajiado, Kiambu, Nakuru and Narok. It will feature five newly-built stations at Ongata Rongai, Ngong, Mai Mahiu, Suswa and Nachu.
Once the entire Mombasa-Malaba SGR project is complete, it is expected to deliver safe, efficient and cost effective railway transport, decongest the Port of Mombasa, and facilitate easy access to local and foreign markers for produce from Kenya’s hinterland.
Additionally, the SGR intervention is meant to lower the cost of production for Kenyan goods and services, create an estimated 30,000 jobs, reduce environmental degradation occasioned by transportation of goods by road, and reduce the wear and tear of highways.
Briefing the President on the progress of the project, Transport and Infrastructure Cabinet Secretary James Macharia expressed optimism that the project will be completed before the end of next year.