Rift Valley Railways’ cargo haulage capacity is expected to rise next month when the firm receives the first batch of wagons it ordered from a Chinese manufacturer at a cost of Sh2 billion.
Sammy Gachuhi, RVR’s General Manager Concession and External Communications, announced that the regional railway firm hadbought 480 new wagons in an effort to augment its haulage capacity.
The first batch of 120 wagons are expected in the country next month while the rest will follow shortly after.
“We have already procured 120 wagons which we expect to arrive in the country in November. They will play an important role in boosting our haulage capacity,” said Mr Gachuhi.
“The wagons purchased from China CNR Corporation at $53, 000 (Sh5.4 million) per unit will increase fleet size and enable RVR to move up to 60 tonnes on each wagon compared to 40 tonnes allowed in the current fleet,” he added.
Mr Gachuhi said that RVR is currently at the midpoint of a Sh25 billion capital expenditure programme to revitalise the railway, which began in January 2012.
“Since the start of the renewal programme RVR has invested Sh11 billion in modern rail operating technology, rebuilding infrastructure, expanding haulage capacity and developing modern rail operating skills in its 2,400 strong workforce.”
RVR has also completed the rehabilitation of damaged sections of the railway track between Mombasa and Nairobi and rehabilitated and reopened the 500 km track from Tororo to Gulu in northern Uganda after a 20-year interruption.
Last year Kenya and Uganda issued fresh terms to RVR that required the rail operator to improve its performance within nine months, failure to which its contract would be cancelled. In March RVR Group CEO Carlos Andrade said the firm had surpassed the set Freight Volume Targets (FVT) after moving 1,883 million net tonnes per kilometre (NTK) of freight as at January 31, 2015, against a target of 1,737 million net tonnes per kilometre by March 31 in Kenya.
In Uganda, the operator had moved 250 million NTK of freight as at February 25, 2015 against a target of 250 million NTK by March 31, 2015.
RVR attributed the improved performance to additional locomotives. A total of 34 engines have been added to the fleet.
The purchase of 20 new locomotives and the rehabilitation of existing wagons in 2014 significantly expanded RVR’s fleet of operating locomotives.
Installation of satellite tracking and GPS-based technology on all trains, said Mr Gachuhi, helped cut cargo transit times between Mombasa and Nairobi by six hours.
“Rising freight volumes, declining incidents and less blockage time are a testament to the success of the range of measures so far implemented under the turnaround programme — from GPS-based navigation and scheduling to reconditioning of tracks and rolling stock — is attracting new customers, including Vivo (formerly Shell Kenya), Lafarge Cement and others looking for safe, efficient, reliable alternatives to road transport,” he said.
The new wagons have been acquired at a time when a management contract has been finalised in Uganda to allow RVR to operate and manage an Inland Container Depot in Mukono.
RVR won a 25-year contract, in November 2006, to run the 2,352km Kenya-Uganda railway for the cargo business, and a five-year contract for the passenger unit.