Riddle of Kenya’s Sh153 billion Nairobi-Naivasha railway project

Labourers work on the Mombasa-Nairobi standard gauge railway on February 11, 2016
Labourers work on the Mombasa-Nairobi standard gauge railway on February 11, 2016. PHOTO/NATION
Kenya will spend Sh1.3 billion per kilometre of the second phase of the standard gauge railway project, amid claims that cost has been inflated.

The Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) has disclosed that the cost of setting up the 120-kilometre Nairobi to Naivasha railway will be Sh153 billion – nearly double the amount spent on the first phase of the project if calculated per kilometre.

The government is spending Sh327 billion on the 427-kilometre Mombasa to Nairobi railway, which comes to about Sh692 million per kilometre.

KRC managing director Atanas Maina has blamed the high cost on the rugged terrain of the Nairobi to Naivasha route, saying that it would require 28 kilometres of bridges and 8.5 kilometres of tunnels – which make up 30 per cent of the route.

The project is set to begin in 2016 and will take four-and-a-half-years to complete.

“One of the tunnels at the edge of the escarpment will be 5.3 kilometres and will take years to drill hence the length of time it will take to complete the line,” Mr Maina said.

The latest revelations come amid the Opposition’s claims that the cost has been inflated to line up pockets of certain powerful individuals.

READ: Mombasa-Nairobi standard gauge railway project well underway

Interestingly, Kenya is spending Sh942 million more per kilometre compared to the Sh333 million that neighbouring Ethiopia is spending on the 781-kilometre Addis Ababa to Djibouti railway.

Tanzania, which is building a 2,561-kilometre railway linking Dar es Salaam to its land-locked neighbours, is spending Sh303 million per kilometre compared to the Sh692 million that Kenya is spending per kilometre on the Mombasa to Nairobi line.

The high cost of the Kenya standard gauge railway has been a concern since early 2013, as experts have repeatedly pointed out that there are no major rivers, lakes or mountains along the route to justify the cost.

The Mombasa to Nairobi standard gauge railway is 85 per cent funded by the China Exim Bank with the Kenyan government financing the remaining 15 per cent.

The bank has agreed to provide Sh1.3 billion to fund 85 per cent of the cost of the Nairobi to Naivasha line, while Kenya will fund the remaining 15 per cent.