Traders upbeat as Kenya unveils railway project

Wednesday May 31 2017
SGR launch

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta and other government officials during the commissioning of the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway at Miritini Station in Mombasa on May 31, 2017. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NMG

Traders who ply the Nairobi-Mombasa route anticipate faster turn-around times for their businesses following the launch of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) train services.

President Uhuru Kenyatta Wednesday flagged off the passenger service in Mombasa, having launched cargo trains on Tuesday.

Business people who rode on the inaugural train predicted better times for their businesses, with the easier commute between the country’s two biggest cities.

“As a business lady, it will be easier to travel to Mombasa as the train only takes four hours, carry on my activities and hopefully travel back to Nairobi in the evening,” said Elizabeth Ngala, fresh fruit exporter based in Kitui, some 160 km east of Nairobi.

According to Simon Maruta, a Nairobi-based businessman, the passenger train services offers a viable transport alternative for him as it is faster and cheaper than other means of transportation.

Abraham Maruta, a fresh juice vendor based in Tharaka-Nithi, eastern Kenya said he SGR cargo train is going to boost business between Mombasa and Nairobi because it will take five hours to travel the distance, a journey that previously took 24 hours by trucks and 12 hours by the old and derelict trains.


Change begins

“This is the beginning of change for Kenya,” said an excited Irene Njambi, a grocery trader in Kiambu County, central Kenya.

The launch of the modern Mombasa-Nairobi train service that runs at an average speed of 120km per hour successfully brings to an end a 42–month journey that begun on November 28, 2013.

The 472-kilometre railway line between Mombasa and Nairobi is Kenya’s largest single infrastructure project since independence, constructed at a cost of Ksh327 billion ($3.27 billion) co-financed through commercial and semi-concessional loans from China and the Kenya government.

It is one of the key part of the ruling Jubilee administration promise to improve infrastructure, which also include the upgrading of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, the Mombasa port and the Lapsset project.