Kenya’s Electric Rail Plan Receives Regional Backing

East African Community states have endorsed Kenya’s plans for the electrification of the standard gauge railway operations.

Before then, however, trains in the immediate term will be powered by diesel.

Ministers drawn from Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan who met in Kampala to discuss implementation of projects under the Northern Corridor Integration Projects Initiative, said electrifying operations will result in benefits of reduced journey times and increased capacity for the new rail network, spurring the region’s economic growth.

“The meeting recommended the adoption of Kenya’s proposal to convert Mombasa-Nairobi-Malaba to electric traction by the time all other sections in partner States commence construction,” Transport and Infrastructure Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said in a statement after the meeting.

Mr Macharia said following the endorsement, Kenya will move ahead with its plans to include the provision for electric traction in the engineering and construction contracts for all other sections including the Nairobi-Malaba route.

Even then, Mr Macharia said, once the rail project is complete, passenger trains will do just over four hours, at 120km per hour, between Mombasa and Nairobi with about 1,000 passengers on board.

“It is the fastest ever on land transport in that sector. Reduction of trucks on our roads means less accidents, lower pollution, less destruction of our roads, hence releasing resources to be expended in other sectors of the economy,” the Cabinet secretary told regional ministers.

The railway will run from Nairobi to Mombasa and eventually snake its way to Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.

As at December 2015, construction of the Sh327 billion Mombasa-Nairobi section as certified by Kenya Railways consultants was reported at 63 per cent.

The section is expected to be complete in 16 months, at around June 2017. The targeted ground breaking date for the Nairobi-Naivasha section is June this year.

The Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia have both shown interest in linking their countries to the railway as well.

Kenya’s delegation to the regional meeting was led by Mr Macharia, Transport Principal Secretary Irungu Nyakera, and the Kenya Railways senior management team.