Nairobi is the largest city in Kenya and a major transit point in the East African region. The number of daily commuters is estimated to be roughly 1.5 million people per day with the majority of the population not owning automobiles and forced to commute by public transportation.
The Nairobi Commuter Rail Service (NCRS) development project aims at carrying out modernization and expansion of underutilized railway transport infrastructure within Nairobi; in order to reduce congestion and create an efficient and affordable transport system for the city.
The project is currently at the implementation stage and was to be developed in three phases – with the construction of a new railway line from Nairobi CBD to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) being in the first phase of the project.
Though NCRS project is part of the Kenya Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project, it only aims at connecting different regions within Nairobi – unlike the SGR which aims at connecting different Kenyan cities, and link the country to the neighbouring countries.
In March 2019, French President Emmanuel Macron visited Kenya. During his visit, he signed an agreement with the Kenya president H.E Uhuru Kenyatta, to implement the commuter rail project. During that period, the Kenyan Government also approved Ksh.10 billion for the rehabilitation of four existing lines with the heaviest passenger-carrying potential.
The railway lines to be rehabilitated were the railway lines connecting Nairobi Central Station to: Ruiru, Embakasi Village, Kikuyu and Kitengela. China is in charge of the construction of the SGR and had earlier expressed interest in expanding the SGR line to JKIA and the city centre via Syokimau. But the plan was termed costly and dropped.
According to Business daily, the commuter rail project will therefore be implemented by French companies in conjunction with Kenyan state. The consortium of the French companies included the Egis, Sogea-Satom, Alstom, Thales and Transdev – who are major players in the rail transport business.
As a result of the deal signed in 2019, Kenya has finally managed to secure Ksh.14 billion loan from the French government to construct the railway line linking Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to Nairobi’s city centre.
The construction is set to begin in March next year and will take approximately two years to complete. The government also plans to use part of the loan to revamp the old 17-kilometer railway track from Nairobi Railway Central Station to Syokimau train terminus.