Kenya opens Nairobi-Mombasa Madaraka Express railway

Passengers ride in the Madaraka Express on May 31, 2017.
Passengers ride in the “Madaraka Express” train after it was launched on May 31, 2017. PHOTO/COURTESY
President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday flagged off the maiden passenger train on the newly completed Mombasa-Nairobi standard gauge railway, hours after the official inauguration of the facility, marking a new chapter in the history of rail transportation in Kenya.

President Kenyatta later rode on the new train, dubbed Madaraka Express, from Mombasa to Nairobi – a journey that has now been shortened from a typical eight hours to four and a half.

On Tuesday the president inaugurated the Chinese-built Sh372 billion railway, hailing it as “a wonderful and a new experience that we will be bringing to all Kenyans at an affordable price”.

“This is a true beginning of our transformation and ultimately Kenyans from all corners will begin to see the benefits, not just from this rail but the ancillary activities that will begin to develop as a result of us developing this line and its continuation to Kisumu,” President Kenyatta said.

Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia, in a recent tour of the railway, said the successful delivery of the 472-kilometre project is attributed to the concerted effort of at least 35,000 thousand men and women comprising professionals, semi-skilled and unskilled workers who worked on the project concurrently.

The tight deadline set during the November 28, 2013 launch made the project a race against time and workers had to make a lot of sacrifices including working at night.

“Every three months, the president would convene a meeting of all stakeholders, including the China Road and Bridge Corporation. The senior executives from China would fly here as a matter of duty and come and sit with us where each party would account to what extent they have been successful in implementing their accountabilities,” Mr Macharia said.

READ: 19 Powerful milestones of East Africa’s first high speed railway

Focus is now shifting to the second phase, from Nairobi to Naivasha, which Mr Macharia anticipates will be a bit more challenging due to the very rough terrain of the Great Rift Valley.

The project, which has been under construction since November 2013, is 472.3 kilometres long – 442.6 kilometres of which run at grade and the remaining 29.7 kilometres comprising the total bridge length.

The Mombasa-Nairobi standard gauge railway project is 90 per cent funded by the China Exim Bank, with Kenya financing the remaining 10 per cent.

The railway line is designed with an axleload of 25 tonnes and is expected to move up to 22 million tonnes of cargo per year at a speed of 80-100km/hr for freight trains. Passenger trains are, on the other hand, expected to achieve speeds of up to 120km/hr.

The second phase of the Mombasa-Nairobi railway, which is set to cost Sh153 billion, will extend to Naivasha and will eventually be extended to Malaba, western Kenya, from where it will link up with the Uganda SGR line and ultimately extend to Kigali in Rwanda.

READ: 7 Key benefits of the Mombasa-Nairobi standard gauge railway

In November, the government announced fresh plans for the electrification of the Mombasa-Nairobi line, which will cost Sh49 billion.

Transport and Infrastructure CS James Macharia said 609 kilometres of railway track would be made electric following a deal reached with Uganda and Rwanda.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Read the latest issue of Construction Kenya digital news magazine. Flip through the pages or download a copy to read offline. Sign up for a FREE subscription to get the paper delivered to your inbox every month.