Construction of the Mombasa-Nairobi standard gauge railway is underway, with officials saying the project is now running ahead of schedule.
Chinese ambassador to Kenya Liu Xianfa said on Monday that the contractor, China Road and Bridge Corporation, had completed half of the construction work of bridges, culverts and sub-grade for the project.
“Ever since the start of the construction, the railway project has achieved significant and vigorous progress,” said Dr Xianfa who added that the design of the electric power to be used in the railway is also complete.
He was speaking during a tour of the Syokimau campsite, about 20km from Nairobi, which coordinates the design and construction of the infrastructure that will handle electric power transmission that will be used by the locomotives. The campsite will, on completion, serve as the command centre for the railway operation system.
The Sh345 billion project suffered a major hitch in March after the supervising consultants differed with the contractor over the designs of culverts. The Kenyan supervisors protested CRBC’s decision to use Chinese design standard instead of the British standard that they were familiar with – leading to suspension of works.
The suspension of works was, however, lifted in April after the two parties agreed to adhere to the set requirements.
Since last December, the contractor has made laudable progress on the 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.
A standard gauge railway has a distance of 56.5 inches between its rails or between the wheels of a train.
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 90 per cent funded by the China Exim Bank, with the Kenyan government financing the remaining 10 per cent.
The Mombasa-Nairobi line is expected to be extended to Malaba, western Kenya, into Uganda and ultimately to Kigali in Rwanda.