Martin Mwita @PeopleDailyKe
Kenya Railways Corporation and the Chinese company contracted to build Phase 2A of the Nairobi-Naivasha Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) appear to have different views on the future of the project.
The contractor- China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) indicated last week that low compensation of landowners is set to delay the completion of the project. It said trials on the railway line ought to have started this month running into March with testing of locomotives set for April but delays in accessing the Ongata Rongai-Ngong stretch have affected the timelines.
“By July we were supposed to be handing over but now the plans have been affected,” said Jasper Liu, assistant manager-public relations and co-operation department at CCCC. Liu who spoke to reporters during a tour of the project cautioned that completion could be pushed to December or even further depending on when the land rows will be resolved.
However, Kenya Railways Acting Managing Director Philip Mainga on Friday assured of timely completion, even as he acknowledged that the project experienced some challenges in some sections of the corridor due to land acquisition and compensation of Project Affected Persons (PAPs).
He said construction of SGR Phase 2A is on schedule and will be completed by May 30. He dismissed concerns by the contractor that the project could delay over compensation rows.
Mainga said the project which is 88 per cent complete is set to be launched on May 31, and commence operations on June 1, this year. This contradicts the contractor who is yet to commence construction on a 35- kilometre stretch between Embul Bul (Ngong) and the Nairobi National Park.
The Chinese firm was forced to lay off its engineers in July last year after residents of Ngong and Rongai area failed to pave way for the project overcompensation.
Construction, however, continued on the remaining part of the project between Ngong and Duka Moja, a small centre between Suswa and Narok town, where laying of the rail has been completed.
Mainga said work on the unaffected sections progressed well and is at an advanced stage of completion. Kenya Railways, the government lead agency in the project, is confident National Land Commission (NLC) will quickly resolve the compensation stalemate to allow completion of the project.
“Following the disbursement of funds to NLC there has been marked progress in the affected areas such as around Ongata Rongai and Ngong Stations. To date a total amount of Sh17.6 billion has been released to the commission and are progressing in compensation of the PAPs,” Mainga said in a statement.“
Despite the challenges faced in land acquisition which have since been addressed, we are confident of meeting our construction completion deadline of May, 30. I want to assure Kenyans that they will begin enjoying our train services both passenger and freight from Mombasa to Mai – Mahiu from June,” he added.
While thanking the PAPs for their patience, resilience and support of the project, Mainga called for co-operation, asking them to vacate the land once compensated to pave way for the contractor to take possession of the land and proceed with construction.
The stalemate which commenced in July last year has affected the remaining part of the project. CCCC last week said some of its engineers had been forced to travel back to China for lack of work on the ground.
About 1,810 persons have been affected by the project where some have been compensated. Land and property owners in the affected area have accused NLC valuers of undervaluing their property.