Kenya Railways partners with tea agency to transport cargo via SGR

Thursday January 06 2022
SGR cargo train at the Nairobi terminus on April 27, 2019.

SGR cargo train at the Nairobi terminus on April 27, 2019. PHOTO | NMG


Kenya Railways and the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) have entered into a partnership, which will see KTDA-managed factories transport their produce via the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) line from Nairobi to the Port of Mombasa for onward export.

Under the partnership, tea from KTDA-managed factories will be transported from the tea growing counties to the Nairobi Freight Terminal where it will be loaded onto Kenya Railways wagons and subsequently transported to the Port of Mombasa.

Maiden trip

The maiden trip from the partnership saw KTDA transport 31 containers of packed tea – 800 tonnes – via the SGR.

Speaking in Mombasa while receiving the first batch of KTDA tea to be hauled by Kenya Railways, Prof Hamadi Boga, the Principal Secretary in State Department for Crop Development and Agricultural Research, said the move to transport tea via SGR is an innovative step that will lower transport costs and deliver better value to farmers.

“Plans to transport tea via Kenya Railways have been in the pipeline for a while now as we explored new technologies and infrastructure to enhance efficiencies in the tea supply chain. We are cognisant that the progression to Kenya Railways will guarantee faster, safer and more convenient transportation of tea,” he said.


Kenya Railways Managing Director Phillip Mainga assured the KTDA team that opting for the SGR was the best choice because of the benefits associated with railway transport.

He said that Kenya Railways guarantees large volumes of cargo transported over shortened transit times due to high haulage capacity and the high speeds of the trains.

“We have enough capacity to handle all the cargo you can bring our way. At the moment we are running 9 to 11 freight trains every day between Mombasa and Nairobi and we are able to do even more if need be,” he said, adding that the safety of the tea cargo was guaranteed.

Mr Mainga further said that the partnership would lead to decongestion on roads.

“Transporting tea through Kenya Railways means that the roads will be decongested because one train can transport an equivalent volume that would take many trucks to transport by road,” he said.

“Today we are transporting 31 containers of tea on one train. This would have taken 31 trucks if we were to do it by road. We are therefore glad to be in this partnership with KTDA because the Madaraka Express Freight Service is a faster, safer and more efficient option.”

Save on transport costs

KTDA Holdings Limited Chairman David Ichoho said the organisation is piloting 20,000 packages per week as it continues to streamline the process for full migration from road to rail transport.

“Every year we move about 300 million kilogrammes of processed teas and we expect these large volumes will mean greater savings for farmers as we progressively migrate to the Kenya Railways. Initially, we expect to transport 20,000 packages every week as we fine-tune the system and processes before full migration,” he said.

Kenya Railways will also soon commence transshipment of cargo from the SGR on to the Metre Gauge Railway line at Longonot station.

This will ensure that cargo is transported seamlessly via rail from the Port of Mombasa to Malaba and Kisumu.

As a result, the firm will attract more customers, especially cargo destined for Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

KTDA is also setting up a tea handling facility next to the Nairobi Inland Container Depot (ICD) that will handle all teas for onward transportation by Kenya Railways, underscoring KTDA’s commitment to the new mode of transporting tea.