Construction of the Mombasa-Nairobi standard gauge railway (SGR) is 55 per cent complete, with officials saying the project is now ahead of schedule.
President Uhuru Kenyatta said on Tuesday that the contractor, China Road and Bridge Corp., had completed more than half of the construction work of bridges, culverts and sub-grade for the project.
Mr Kenyatta who was speaking during the Mashujaa Day celebration in Nairobi said the government had signed a deal with CRBC that would pave the way for extension of the railway from Nairobi to Naivasha, some 89km northwest of the capital.
“We recently concluded negotiations to extend the line to Naivasha as a result of the good progress we are making,” he said, noting that plans were underway for the construction of an industrial park in Naivasha.
The commercial contract will pave the way for construction of phase 2A of the SGR project that will see the line head to Naivasha to link Olkaria’s special zones to Nairobi and the port city of Mombasa to enable smooth flow of goods and inputs.
A source privy to the deal told the Construction Business Review on Tuesday that Kenya expects to spend US$1.5 billion (about Sh157 billion) to set up the Nairobi-Naivasha line.
The hefty cost has been blamed on the rugged terrain and steep slopes of the Rift Valley – which will necessitate construction of several rail bridges and tunnels.
The government is currently seeking funds for the project.
Since last December, CRBC has made laudable progress on the Sh345 billion Mombasa-Nairobi SGR project including setting up two factories for the production of sleepers and T-beams.
The two factories are located at Emali and Kathekani, with each facility having the capacity to produce 1.5 beams and 1,000 sleepers a day.
Sleepers are blocks that support the rails in rail-road tracks while T-beams are used to reinforce bridges.
Bridges will account for about 30km of the 472km railway and will be used to span valleys, cross roads and areas where the new railway crosses the existing metre gauge line.
The plan includes construction of a 2km bridge over the Tsavo River as well as the establishment of eight corridors for elephants to pass under the line. The corridors are seven metres high and 50 metres long each.
The standard gauge railway, whose completion is scheduled for June 2017, will carry freight trains at speeds of up to 80km/hour and passenger trains at up to 120km/hour.
The new rail line will run parallel to the existing metre gauge railway but will deviate as appropriate in order to achieve the desired gradient and curvature.
The project is 85 per cent funded by the China Exim Bank, with the Kenyan government financing the remaining 15 per cent.
The Mombasa-Nairobi standard gauge railway is expected to be extended to Malaba, western Kenya, into Uganda and ultimately to Kigali in Rwanda.