Emerging reports indicate that the Standard Gauge Railways (SGR) from Mombasa to Nairobi will delay starting its operations by up to six months. The Transport Principal Secretary Irungu Nyakera has said this delay is occasioned by the setting of tariffs for the commercial operations of the new line.
He also indicated that the operator will start hiring between 2,000 and 3,000 Kenyans after February 2017 when the government expects to ink an operation deal with the firm. The China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) is expected to run the new standard gauge railway from mid-2017.
The ministry has set aside KES 19.3 billion for completion of the Mombasa- Nairobi line and KES 90.3 billion for phase 2 of the project connecting Nairobi to Naivasha. The second phase is set to cost KES 152.5 billion and cover 120 Km. When operational the Nairobi- Mombasa line will cut the journey between Nairobi and Mombasa to four and a half hours from the current 13 hours or more and reduce freight costs to KES 8.14 per tonne per kilometre from the present average KES 20.37.
A study report for the social and environmental impact of the second phase of SGR has also emerged. The report notes that the bulk of cargo that is moved by road will be ferried by freighter trains once the lines are functional. It expects a number of towns along the line to experience major economic decline, while some will even collapse. The study commissioned by Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) and the Chinese Communications Construction Company (CCCC) notes that some of the towns along this route that are heavily dependent on long-distance trucks are in danger of dying once the railway starts operating.
The report also estimates that there are 50,000 drivers and assistants that operate some 25,000 trucks that move goods between Mombasa and Malaba at the Kenya- Uganda border who will be directly affected as a result of the new line. Towns and market centres which depend on the long-distance trucks for business opportunities will experience economic downfall when the new railway line starts operating, the economies of these towns which are largely dependent on the transportation trucks will be affected adversely. Businesses such as hotels, lodging and motor repair businesses that are vibrant supporting long distance hauling will reduce.