The construction of the standard gauge railway from Mombasa to Nairobi is well underway. The Government of Kenya has even started negotiations with the company building the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) for the extension of the line to Naivasha. This is to serve the industrial park to be set up there. President Uhuru Kenyatta on May 26th 2015 inspected the project being constructed by China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) at the Tsavo super bridge construction site in Taita Taveta County. During the tour, the President had an on-site office meeting at a CRBC campsite in Voi, during which he received a report on the project progress.
The Government also plans to set up many industrial parks along the route of the SGR. Already, the Ministry of Industrialisation has identified land for setting up industrial parks in Mariakani, Voi, Naivasha, Athi River and Emali
Developments at Section 7
The Standard Gauge Railway Section 7 site is located at Emali, 3-hour’s drive from the capital, Nairobi. Construction utility waggons have been delivered at section 7, they comprise covered waggons, open top hopper cars, flat bed waggons and a locomotive engine. More are expected to arrive. These waggons will be used in laying the line towards Nairobi from the Section 7 campsite.
The 100km/h utility engine was delivered at section 7 to aid in movements at the construction site. The arrival of this utility engine is a clear sign that construction works have entered a completely new stage. It will be used to pull wagons and provide traction force for the track-laying machine among others. The locomotive engine will move the waggons on the rail as the tracklayer lays the tracks piece by piece. Moving at a speed of 5-10 km/h the track-laying machine can lay a kilometre of track in a days’ work. It lays the tracks (sleeper-rails) one by one from a feeder on its bed.
The Section 7 construction camp has the mandate of producing railway sleepers, dispatching of railway steel and production of the railway bridge girders. The girders are horizontal steel reinforced beams weighing up to 140 Tonnes that will support the railway track on columns. Spanning 32 metres, the massive beams have to be cast inside a mould after which it is dried and removed to storage awaiting transportation. Railway lines built at the site will undertake movement of these structures.
The SGR Railway Sleeper Specifications
Section 7 churns out up to 100 sleepers per-day. After production, the sleepers are tested for structural integrity before installation. As opposed to the old system of using steel for the sleepers, the steel reinforced sleepers handle traction better and support the load in all weather conditions.
The SGR Projects’ sleepers have a height of 235 mm at the highest point, 175 mm at the lowest point. It spans 2500 mm from end to end and weights up to 300 kg. From the midpoint to the farthest end, it measures 1250 mm. The diameter of the mounting bolts is 65 mm. It can withstand up to 170 kN which is roughly equivalent to a fully loaded train passing on the sleeper.
Local content and training
The project has also had its share of controversy with local cement manufacturers claiming they were short-changed by CRBC. The cement producers said they spent millions of dollars to upgrade their factories to produce the 52.5 grade of cement required by the contractors. This was done with the understanding that CRBC would source cement locally. Five months after the project began, they however claimed this was not so. This glitch has however been resolved with Dr Kevit Desai of the Private Sector Railways Consortium informing Kenya Engineer that 100% of Cement used in the SGR will be locally sourced. He also said that some steel from local manufacturers is acceptable for use in the project. The private sector currently has an arrangement with the CRBC under which they will receive from the contractor a periodic list of materials needed for the project. The private sector will then undertake to build local capacity to attain the required standards.
The private sector railways consortium through their caucuses lobbied and consulted the Kenya bureau of standard (KEBS) and the government to get the standards needed by CRBC for the project and undertake to meet them. “Working with CRBC will modernise the local industry, enhance taxation, and build capacity toward Kenya becoming a hub in railway building,” said Dr. Kevit.
As the project goes on, it has already employed many locals along the railway's path. The project is divided into different sections camped along the railway from Mombasa to Nairobi. In the factories and camps, locals are being trained on how to work with machines imported from China.
The construction phase is expected to create about 30,000 jobs for Kenyans and contribute 1.5 per cent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). CRBC has also launched a railway technology transfer training facility in Voi to improve capacity of its Kenyan employees. The training centre will be located at the SGR Section 2 campsite in Voi and those who undergo the training will be among the key personnel in construction of the new railway.