Eng. James Karanja the deputy team leader of TSDI-APEC-EDON Consultants (3rd from left) and Transport Principal Secretary Irungu Nyakera  (4th from left) leading Engineers on a factory inspection in China for locomotive manufacturers

With the track, laying business, for the Nairobi Mombasa railways expected to be completed by December 2016. Engineers working on the Standard Gauge Railways (SGR) visited China during the months of February and March 2016 to scout for the best locomotives for the new line.

Alongside the Engineers was the new Transport Principal Secretary Irungu Nyakera who said this is an indication of successful completion of the new railway line, which is set for opening in July 2017. “As you know the whole SGR project to Nairobi is expected to cost at least KES 327billion and the budget for locomotives and the other machines is within KES 106 billion. The rest of the amount is for the actual construction. You know the total budget for these project included buying of these machines,” he said. He added that the SGR will be handed to the government when 100% complete in June 2017.

Apart from the locomotives, at least 1,620 wagons and 40 coaches are also expected to be purchased for use on the line. Freight trains will have a capacity of 216 TEUs and will travel at an average speed of 80km/h while multiple unit passenger trains will have a capacity of 960 passengers and will travel at an average speed of 120km/h on the line. There are already some locomotives on the SGR helping with the construction. “The locomotives will be 56 and the tentative time for these other ones to arrive will be the end of this year. By mid next year we expect the railway line to be complete. In fact the construction is ahead of time,” Nyakera said.

“Over 75% civil works has been completed on phase one of SGR with over 180KM track-line laid.” Said  Atanas Maina the Managing Director for Kenya Railways Corporation during the Railway Users Consultative Forum in April 2016. “The future expansion of SGR will largely depend on how we can optimize its usage in the region.” He added.  The Kenya Railways Managing director affirmed that the first batch of locomotives is expected to be delivered in November 2016 for trial runs.

One of the Engineers on the trip to China to review the sourcing of the locomotives was Eng. James Karanja the deputy team leader of TSDI-APEC-EDON Consultants. He said they went to China to carry out due diligence; look at the types of Locomotives – technical specifications, and scrutinize different manufactures of locomotives and wagons. They reviewed the manufacturers profiles, compared prices, quality control measures of the manufacturers, certifications, factory tests and compliance to international standards.

“The companies we visited have exported locomotives in use in different countries with diverse operating conditions, some of the countries include; Venezuela, Iran, Canada, Saudi Arabia, India, and Pakistan. Their Quality Control measures are adequate for our specifications.  They use Computer Numerical Control (CNC) systems for machining, and measuring. Their test systems are modern resulting in quality locomotives. Their working history with other major rail companies in the world is well documented with their locomotives considered as reliable and satisfactory.” Said Eng. karanja

The Engineers visited the factories some of which are very advanced and hermitically controlled.  They looked at their maintenance depots, maintenance practise, and equipments. The companies visited are compliant to International Railway Industry Standard (IRIS) and have joint development projects with other major locomotive companies like General Electric (GE) and Alstom. The companies showed that they have the capacity to meet the desired standards for the SGR. The Engineers also created time to get user feedback from the users of similar locomotives in China. The reviews were found to be positive.

The Engineers identified suitable locomotives for passenger, freight, and shunting operations with power ratings between 2000 KW and 3600 KW. The companies identified have adequate Research and Development programs with qualified staff to run the operations. They offer support and maintenance for the locomotives they supply including, spare parts for 30 years and technical support for 3 years.

There will be training for local Engineers on the operation of the new locomotives; the engineers will also be allowed to monitor the manufacturing process to ensure the best standards are adhered to. The passenger locomotives will reduce the journey from Mombasa to Nairobi to 5 hours, freight movements will also be improved drastically from Mombasa inland.



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