Repeat presidential election could delay SGR cargo train plan

September 15, 2017

Trial runs for the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) freight train that were scheduled to start next month could be delayed by the uncertainties posed by the looming repeat presidential election. Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said in an interview that although the Chinese contractor was committed to adhering to the project’s timelines, they had expressed reservations about the volatile political environment in the country in the run up to the October 17 polls.

“As Government, we are ready to start the trials for the freight train. The trials should begin in October and end in December as we look forward to commencing full freight train operations in January 2018. However, we have to address the concerns of our partners first before we can start the trials,” said Mr Macharia. Trial runs for the SGR freight train are scheduled to start on October 31 while full commercial services will kick off in January next year. Complicated matters

A ruling by the Supreme Court annulling the election of President Uhuru Kenyatta last month has thrown the country back into political limbo, with most investors assuming a wait-and-see attitude. The private sector in its post-election analysis termed August the ‘worst’ month in four years, with the country having come to a near-standstill due to a heightened political environment that saw the Opposition challenge the presidential polls outcome in court, leading to the repeat election. China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), the company tasked with the initial construction of the railway and also runs the rail’s daily operations, according to the CS, feels the court ruling has further complicated matters for investors.

Macharia is, however, confident once the train is operational, it will greatly ease cargo transportation from the Mombasa Port to the hinterland. The single-stack train will have a capacity of 216 Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) while the double-stack one will have a capacity for 432 TEUs full load. “On commencement of full freight train, we will have four trains per day with a capacity of 4,000 tonnes per train,” said the CS.

The transport boss said the ministry was also carrying out modernisation of the inland container depot in Nairobi, which will see its capacity rise from 18,0000 TEUs to 450,000 TEUs. On the SGR passenger train, Mr Macharia said since the inauguration of the Madaraka Express in June, the number of commuters ferried by the train as of September 1, stood at 281,725.

Source: Standard Digital