Development of the railway sector in Kenya continues even as the country seeks to achieve her medium to long term Vision 2030 goals. Kenya Railways (KR) continues to take her rightful place as a contributor to infrastructure development and subsequent national development following completion of the first phase of The Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project and commissioning of the Madaraka Express service by H.E. President Uhuru Kenyatta on May 31, 2017.
Phase One Completion and Madaraka Express
Madaraka Express operations started on schedule, and continue progressively just about two months following commencement. Current status is as follows:
Operational Trains and Schedule
The SGR operates both freight and passenger services; passenger service dubbed “Madaraka Express.” Operations of the Intercity trains on the Madaraka Express service have been ongoing. The Mombasa- Nairobi (& vice versa) trains depart from respective stations at 9am, arriving at 1:30pm in both termini.
So far, the Madaraka Express has transported approximately 150,000 passengers with increasing demand daily. The Corporation remains committed to meeting this growing need by increasing the number of trains as well as frequency of schedule, all in due course.
The trains have been stopping only at Mtito Andei to allow for passage of the oncoming Intercity Train. Average speed for these is 100 kph, with transit times at 4 hours and 30 minutes for the 472 km stretch.
Effective August 1, 2017, KR shall introduce stops at Voi in addition to a passenger stop at Mtito Andei. Passengers will therefore be able to book trains to and from the two stations. Stoppage at each of these stations will be maximum of five (5) minutes.
Operations at the remaining intermediate stations namely Mariakani, Miasenyi, Kibwezi, Emali, and Athi River will start once the operations of the County trains commence. Average speed for the Coutny trains is 85 kph, with transit times at 5 hours and 25 minutes for the 472 km stretch. The County passenger train has a lower average speed due to the more frequent stops at designated passenger stations.
Madaraka express shall have the first scheduled interruption on the service on August 8, 2017 due to the national elections. It is imperative that staff and service providers of the Madaraka Express exercise their democratic voting rights.
Tickets, Ticketing & Online Payment
Tickets are available at the respective termini and can also be purchased via Mpesa, through calling telephone no. 0709388888. The ticketing offices and Mpesa lines open from 7am to 4pm. KR is working on an online purchase and payment system in order to improve efficiencies in the ticketing process. The online module will also incorporate use of mobile applications.
Any existing online booking sites and mobile applications are not part of the KR system.
Effective August 1, KR shall also roll out return tickets. This is applicable for situations where the departure and return dates are within the seven day window.
KR is currently revising the ticket format, and will soon be rolling out a new version of the tickets incorporating passenger’s identification details, thus addressing the issue of unscrupulous purchase and resale of tickets at a premium. We have enhanced surveillance at the Termini and the security team is on ground to monitor any such occurrences and handle them appropriately.
Other Highlights of the First Phase of the SGR Project:
Construction of the Inland Container Depot (ICD) at Embakasi is in final stages. Currently, testing of ICD operations is ongoing via the food relief freight transportation and handling.
The facility will soon be handed over by the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) to Kenya Railways for official commencement of cargo operations later this year. Upon full commencement of operations, the ICD will handle 405,000 TEUs per annum.
Official freight operations on the SGR will commence in December, 2017. Meanwhile, Kenya Railways & the operator have dedicated a daily train for transportation of at least 100 containers of cereals per day from the Port of Mombasa (KPA) to Nairobi ICD via The Standard Gauge Railway. This is a joint working arrangement between the Government of Kenya, the Corporation and Grain Bulk Handlers Limited.
So far, the SGR has moved close to 38,000 tonnes of the government imported cereal. The SGR is carrying an average of 88 Twenty Foot containers and taking around 8 hours between Mombasa and Nairobi.
The Corporation recently received 18 more freight locomotives and 60 wagons designed for double-stacking on the SGR freight operations. This will go further in decongesting the Port of Mombasa as well as Mombasa Road.
The initial charges for containerized freight from the Port of Mombasa to the Inland Container Depot (ICD) in Nairobi or to Nairobi South freight exchange centre are set at US$ 500 per TEU, which is equivalent to approximately KShs. 50,000 per TEU. Bulk freight will be charged at 0.07 per tonne-kilometre. Minimum distance chargeable for cargo transportation is 200km.
Phase Two (2) of the Standard Gauge Railway Project
The status of this section of the project is as follows:
The relocation Action Plan (RAP) is now complete; Contractor mobilization is currently ongoing in preparation for land acquisition and subsequent commencement of construction; Identification of financiers for Phase 2B (Naivasha Sub-county to Kisumu) of the SGR project is currently ongoing.
It is expected that this second phase of the project will see more inclusion of locals as employees, given the expertise built on the first phase of the project. Graduates of the Railway Training Institute (RTI) programme have also been incorporated into the SGR operations in various capacities.
Technology transfer and training of local expertise will remain a key aspect of the project even in the remaining phases. The 40% local content will also be applied with an expected increase in number of local suppliers in various sectors.
Expected Capacity and Related Benefits
Operations on the Standard Gauge Railway line and Madaraka Express service between Mombasa and Nairobi are set to improve the overall efficiency of human and freight transport within the Northern Corridor.
The modern, high capacity Madaraka Express will carry up to 1,000,000 passengers per annum, increasing to 1,500,000 passengers per year by the third year of operations. The SGR will also run freight trains with each carrying 216 TEUs per trip and a trailing load of 4,000 tonnes on each train .
Other benefits of the project: regional integration and connection; enhanced business operations through increased freight capacity and increased transport speeds; development of towns, thus an economic growth in local towns and centres; job creation; enhanced local capacity through knowledge and skills transfer; creation of local business through use of local supplies; and environmental conservation and reduction of pollution.