THE Rift Valley Railways yesterday received two consignments of rail worth close to Sh1.6 billion to be used for the repair of 70km of worn out curves between Nairobi and Mombasa.
RVR chief executive Brown Ondego said the 6,869 metric tonnes of rail bars and 10,000 sleepers from China is part of a Sh24.1 billion programme being undertaken by the company to improve the railway network between Kenya and Uganda over five years.
Ondego said after the repair works, the speed of rail transport will improve as will the number of cargo transported via rail. "We will bring back the design speed of 45kmph-65kmph. I think it's an embarrassment at the moment that our speeds are down to about 25kmph and if you average them we are talking about 10kmph. "That's just a walk, it's not even an operation. But with this, by December, I think we will have improved that tremendously," said Ondego at the Mombasa port yesterday.
Transport PS Cyrus Njiru said the government is committed to bringing back the Mombasa-Malaba-Kampala railway line to its former design capacity of carrying at least 35 per cent of freight. At the moment the rail network in Kenya carries only 4 per cent of freight while the other 96 per cent is carried by road. Njiru said this is not sustainable.
Kenya Ports Authority managing director Gichiri Ndua said the railway system's capacity in the country need only to be increased by about 15 per cent for Kenya to match many of the developed countries. "If we can be able to move the capacity of the railway to anything around 17-20 per cent for our port, we would be doing a great deal of service, for I know that in Europe today the average off-take or leverage of the rail system is about 17 per cent," said Ndua.
Kenya Railways managing director Nduva Muli said they would ensure that RVR meets all the obligation of the agreement as partners in providing rail transport. RVR have a 25-year concession with the government to manage rail transport in the country. The last time rail was imported in the country was in 1985. Through the five-year turnaround program, RVR aims to return to within the next 24 months. In addition to the commissioning of repair of nine major culverts between Tororo and Jinja in Uganda at the beginning of the year, RVR has also started rehabilitating locomotive and wagons, having received steel tyres and other spare parts in both Kenya and Uganda.