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

A train at the Nairobi terminus on May 29, 2017. PHOTO/COURTESY
A train at the Nairobi terminus on May 29, 2017. PHOTO/COURTESY
History was made on Tuesday when President Uhuru Kenyatta flagged off the Mombasa-Nairobi standard gauge railway’s cargo operations in Mombasa.

The event marked the culmination of a three and a half year construction journey that gave Kenya its most ambitious transport facility to date.

The Construction Business Review takes a look at some of the key events that shaped East Africa’s first standard gauge railway.

August 12, 2009 – China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) signed a memorandum of understanding with Kenya Railways Corporation for feasibility studies and preliminary designs for the project.

May 29, 2012 – CRBC submitted the preliminary design and signed the contract on civil works, supply and installation of facilities as well as a contract on locomotives and rolling stock.

August 19, 2013 – A memorandum of understanding on the financing of the Mombasa-Nairobi standard gauge railway project by Exim Bank of China was signed in Beijing, China, jointly witnessed by President Uhuru Kenyatta and the Chinese President Xi Jin-Ping.

August 28, 2013 – The Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda governments signed a tripartite treaty as a commitment to fast track development of the standard gauge railway in their respective countries.

November 29, 2013 – President Kenyatta officially launched construction works for the Sh327 billion railway project in Mombasa. Mr Kenyatta hailed the project as the country’s biggest infrastructure development since independence.

May 11, 2014 – Presidents from the East African Community signed agreements related to construction of the Mombasa-Kigali standard gauge railway at the State House in Nairobi in an event witnessed by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. Presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Salva Kiir Mayardit of the South Sudan attended the event.

January 23, 2015 – President Kenyatta toured the standard gauge railway observation segment of section three and track laying base of section three.

May 26, 2015 – President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto toured the construction site of the Tsavo super bridge and commended the contractor for the progress made on the railway project.

September 19, 2015 – China Communications Construction Company President Chen Fenjian and President Uhuru Kenyatta jointly attended the ground breaking ceremony of the Nairobi terminus.

October 30, 2015 – CRBC began laying tracks on the high speed railway. Operation planning and locomotive purchase process got underway.

March 26, 2016 – Standing Committee of the National People Congress chairman, Zhang Dejiang, visited the Mombasa terminus of the SGR project.

June 24, 2016 – The Environment and Land Court in Mombasa stopped construction of the railway pending the hearing of a case in which Kenya Railways was accused of not compensating Africa Gas & Oil and Miritini Free Port for land the railway was supposed to pass through in Miritini.

Kenya Railways said in court that the order was occasioning massive daily losses of Sh37 million on account of idle equipment and a workforce of 1,600 personnel.

September 5, 2016 – President Kenyatta made an impromptu inspection tour of the railway project stopping at the Konza signal station and Mtito Andei passenger station.

August 10, 2016 – President Kenyatta held a meeting with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi in Nairobi expressing his commitment to the early completion and operation of the project as well as the joint building of the East Africa railway network.

November 25, 2016 – The Court of Appeal allowed Kenya Railways and CRBC to continue constructing on the Miritini land, overturning the ruling by the Environment and Land Court requiring the two firms to pay Sh2 billion to Africa Gas & Oil and Miritini Free Port.

January 9, 2017 – The first batch of six freight locomotives for the standard gauge railway arrived at the port of Mombasa.

January 28, 2017 – The second batch of four locomotives, two passenger and two freight locomotives, docked at the port of Mombasa.

May 30, 2017 – President Kenyatta officially launches the standard gauge railway with the first cargo train leaving Mombasa for Nairobi.

May 31, 2017 – Madaraka Express hits the tracks for its maiden journey from Mombasa to Nairobi with hundreds of high profile passengers, among them President Kenyatta.

According to the Kenya Railways, Madaraka Express will be operating two types of trains; the intercity and county trains. The intercity train is an express train between Nairobi and Mombasa while the county train will make stops at the intermediate stations, namely; Mariakani, Maisenyi, Voi, Mtito Andei, Kimbwezi, Emali and Athi River.