President Uhuru Kenyatta on 26May inspected Nairobi-Mombasa railway project that is 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.
Since commencement, the project has made major progress. There has been a breakthrough in land acquisition, with 87 per cent of the total length of the whole line available for construction. CRBC has also made progress on the main civil works and has completed over 28 per cent of the subgrade, 23 per cent of the bridge works and 29 per cent of the culverts. It has produced thousands of railway sleepers and T-beams at its Kathekani and Emali production facilities.
This puts the project on track with 50 per cent of the civil works set for completion by end of 2015. CRBC is also undertaking trial track-laying along the whole, with the actual track-laying expected to start in November this year. The company said trial track laying, construction of the major station as well as locomotive procurement will be undertaken in the next half year.
The President also toured the construction of the Tsavo Super Bridge, which will be an architectural masterpiece once complete. The 1987.7 metre long bridge, with the highest point of 35.1 metres, will run over Tsavo River and existing meter gauge railway. It is designed to ensure minimal disruption to wildlife within Tsavo National Park while at the same time giving passengers a panoramic view of the Park.
Julius Li CRBC Manager for External Relations and Cooperation for the SGR project said the company had put in place exceptional measures to ensure protection of the fauna and flora with the sensitive Tsavo ecosystem during the SGR project construction phase. The giant pillars that will support the Tsavo Bridge are nearing completion. The next step will be the installation of T-beams, which are being produced at a production facility in Kathekani near Mtito Andei.
The Tsavo Bridge is planned for completion in December 2015, but based on the current progress, the firm expects to complete construction ahead of schedule. Mr Li said CRBC had taken all necessary measures to ensure that it delivers a quality project.
“Internally, there is three-level quality control system— the first level entails Site Offices carrying out self-examinations, then the Branch Offices inspect and track the works and then the Head Office evaluates,” he said.
There is also an independent consortium led by Third Railway Survey and Design Institute (TSDI) contracted by the Government to supervise project quality, safety and drawings. “All these processes are subject to scrutiny by CRBC, the Kenya Railways as well as the consortium led by the TSDI. No works are constructed at site without consent and approval of the Consultant,” said Li.
Since commencement, the project has offered Kenyans different opportunities. To date, 10,889 Kenyans are directly engaged in the Project and a further 4,000 locals are indirectly engaged in the project through the subcontractors like transport agents. The company is in plans to train 5,000 of its Kenyan employees in railway technology and operations, who will come in handy in the railway construction phase as well as when it begins operations.
In addition, CRBC have started training railway locomotive drivers, technical management and maintenance staff in batches to ensure operation and maintenance when the SGR is built and to reserve talents for such purpose. “What we are bringing to Kenya is not just the railway hardware but also advanced knowledge and skills that will help in the design, construction and operation of the railway system,” said Mr Li.
CRBC in partnership with Kenya Railways Corporation and the TSDI led Consortium have also compiled a comprehensive guide on construction technology and management of SGR. The document will serve as a guide in the implementation of this and other SGR projects in future. Aside from employment and training opportunities, local firms have also benefited from the project.
CRBC has so far signed purchase agreements with 225 local suppliers and subcontracted nine local subcontractors. It is currently in talks with another 22 local firms for partnerships in different areas.
CRBC held a bidders’ conference on April 24, 2015 which set the stage for the procurement of steel bars for reinforced concrete. The firm will buy 16 different types of steel bars for reinforced concrete with a total quantity of 5,125 tons. Five major steel firms were present at the conference and submitted their bidding documents. CRBC attaches high importance to the implementation of local component and keen on partnering with local suppliers and subcontractors.
“We have a principle where we first source for materials, machineries, equipment and services from the Kenyan market and only resort to the international market when these are not available locally,” said Mr Li. To date local components amounting USD 220 million have been implemented. CRBC said more local suppliers and subcontractors will participate in the project construction as the project further proceeds to achieve win-win cooperation with local firms.
Other than the construction works on the Mombasa-Nairobi SGR Project, CRBC has also undertaken corporate social responsibility programmes. The SGR site offices along the railway corridor have been involved in numerous activities across. These include drilling boreholes for local residents, donation to local schools, road rescue, community road repair and participating in environment protection undertakings, which have benefited more than 7,000 Kenyans.
The firm, which has operated in Kenya for over three decades, has established Long Service Award held biennially and “CRBC KenCare Fund” to support its local employees overcome different challenges in life. These mechanisms have been very popular with the employees.