A pictorial view of the SGR Project’s proposed routes
The region under the East African Community plans to have the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) connecting from Kenya's Mombasa port through Uganda to South Sudan and into Rwanda.
The Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project is one of the largest of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa, and East Africa’s most ambitious infrastructure project to date. It includes construction of 700 km of standard-gauge track, 33 stations and dozens of wagons and locomotives. Just like its huge cost pegged, so are the expectations that it will transform transport in East Africa and strengthen cross-border political and economic ties.
The first phase of the project included, the Nairobi-Mombasa segment that kicked off in November 2013 is expected to be complete in 2017 and will create about 30,000 jobs. The new line is hoped to cut travel time from Mombasa to Nairobi to four hours for passengers, eight hours for freight trains significantly reducing travel time between the two cities from the current 15 hours to four and making a considerable impact on transport activities.
The benefits are so huge in that, Kenya is the entry point for three landlocked countries (Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan) and what happens here directly affects those countries. This will create efficient regional links, improve business within the East African Community and foster strong multilateral relationships.
Kenya is East Africa’s logistics, trade and transport hub yet its current rail network consists of dilapidated British colonial-era lines, one of the blames to the sluggish transit. The railway is old, and large parts of the tracks remain unused, while roads are crowded and traffic is slow. The notorious "Lunatic Express" was completed in 1901 and links Kampala in Uganda with the Indian Ocean town of Mombasa.
The railway is one of the flagship projects in East Africa's economic blueprint ‘Vision 2030’, which aims to transform the economic, political and social state of the region by 2030. The first section of the project has been funded by the Chinese government to the tune of $5.2 billion to build the Mombasa to Nairobi line set to be operational by 2017.The state-owned China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) will build the whole railway as part of the conditions of the Chinese loan.
Despite the auspicious mood around the project it has not been spared controversy either. At the onset of its construction, some stakeholders had questioned the tendering process that saw CRBC awarded the tender. The members also shared their concern on the valuation the project claiming it would be a burden on East Africa’s taxpayers.
The Mombasa-Nairobi section is only the first part of a much larger project. The standard gauge railway is planned to run between Mombasa and Malaba and eventually link to other major East African cities; Kampala, Kigali and Juba. With this, the Kenyan government is hoping to strengthen ties between the corresponding countries.
According to China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), a parent company of CRBC the railway will reduce the cost of transportation in the region making it an attractive investment destination and accelerate industrialization through easier and cheaper transport and the establishment of new industries to service the new railway.
The China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) argues that the project will contribute to an annual GDP growth of at least 1.5% during construction and subsequent operation and that it will create at least 60 new jobs per kilometre of the track during the construction period.
The CCCC claims the construction could create at least 10,000 jobs locally as large quantities of local inputs such as steel, cement, aggregates, electricity generation and electricity transmission pylons and cables, roofing materials, glass is required from local industries.
President Uhuru Kenyatta while laying the foundation stone for the construction of the line in Mombasa urged the agencies, ministries and stakeholders involved to concentrate their efforts in ensuring the project is delivered on time and budget.
Analysts have hyped the Standard Gauge Railway as the next game changer in East Africa whose impact will be likened to that of the ‘Lunatic Express’ during its time more than a century ago.
Source: The East African newspaper.
A video is available on the platform to get the visual aspect of the project.
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