China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) said on Saturday that it was pleased with the progress on the under-construction rail line from Mombasa to Nairobi, dispelling fears that the project was behind schedule.
CRBC said it had completed all the critical groundwork works along the railway route, including staff recruitment, land clearing, transporting the required equipment and laying the foundation for the railway.
“We have made sufficient preparations for the Mombasa–Nairobi standard gauge railway project in aspects of organisation structure, personnel mobilization and supply of machinery, equipment and materials” Julius Li, CRBC Kenya’s manager of liaison department, said in a statement.
Mr Li assured that “everything has been put in place”, including the establishment of 21 camp-sites along the railway route – each of which will supervise works on specific segments of the Sh345 billion railway.
CRBC, according to Mr Li, had already built 40.24km of railway sub-grade, barely five months after the project officially got underway.
The declaration came in the wake of media reports that the project was running behind schedule due to disagreements between Kenyan engineers and their Chinese counterparts.
The Kenyan engineers have lately protested the contractor’s decision to use Chinese design standard instead of the British standard that they are familiar with – leading to suspension of works in March.
The suspension of works has since been lifted after the two parties agreed to adhere to the set requirements.
“Since last December, we have made a lot of progress on it and we are on course to complete it on time,” Mr Li said, adding that CRB had operationalised two factories for the production of sleepers and T-beams.
The two factories – at Emali and Kathekani – have so far produced 105,250 sleepers and 148 T-beams, 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 609km railway and will be used to span valleys, cross roads and areas where the standard gauge railway crosses the existing metre gauge railway line. This will include a 2km bridge over the Tsavo River.
“At Tsavo National Park, we will be building eight corridors for elephants to pass under the line. These will be seven metres high and 50 metres long each,” SGR project manager Maxwell Mengich said.
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.