In four years, the Standard Gauge Rail (SGR), inaugurated by President Uhuru Kenyatta on June 1, 2017 has had significant impact of the economy of the nation, contributing in no small measure to the grow of the tourism and cargo sectors.
According to the-star.co.ke, since its inauguration, the train service as at the end of February 2021, has ferried 5,200,000 passengers in 4,356 train rides, with 65% of all tourists arriving in Nairobi from abroad and the national parks, ride the Madaraka Express to Mombasa.
The cost of production and manufacturing has been lowered, and agriculture and service industry have experienced exponential growth.
The history of transport is largely one of technological innovation. Advances in technology have allowed people to travel farther, explore more territory, and expand their influence over larger and larger areas. Even in ancient times, new tools such as foot coverings, skis, and snowshoes lengthened the distances that could be travelled.
As new inventions and discoveries were applied to transport problems, travel time decreased while the ability to move more and larger loads increased. International trade was the driving motivator behind advancements in global transportation in the pre-modern world. There was a single global world economy with a worldwide division of labour and multilateral trade from 1500 onward.
To increase efficiency, transport services were integrated as evidenced by the establishment of the East African Railways and Harbours Corporation, a defunct company that operated railways and harbours in East Africa from 1948 to 1977. It was formed in 1948 for the new East African High Commission by merging the Kenya and Uganda Railways and Harbours with the Tanganyika Railway.
As well as running railways and harbours in the three territories, it ran inland shipping services on Lake Victoria, Lake Kyoga, Lake Albert, the Victoria Nile and the Albert Nile.
But now, the standard gauge railway, the flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative, remains significant in terms of saving valued natural resources and protecting the environment, especially from the challenge of global warming. Besides, its operations have continued to play positive effects on delivery of both passengers and cargo.
From passenger trains inauguration by President Uhuru Kenyatta on June 1, 2017, that initially had one train per each direction, the service has improved to current state of three trains both directions. During the period of June 2017 up to the end February 2021, 4,356 passenger trains have moved both directions delivering 5,200,000 passengers, a service that has proved popular with on time schedule train arrivals.
On the Freight cargo service that commenced on January 1, 2018, SGR has maintained a steady offtake of cargo from the port that has seen 7,280 trains moved delivering 726,485 TEUs.
The SGR has also had a multiplier effect on the economy by spurring the growth of the tourism sector at the coast. At least 65 per cent of all the tourists arriving in Nairobi from abroad and the national parks ride the Madaraka Express to Mombasa.
The cost of production and manufacturing has been lowered, and agriculture and service industry have experienced exponential growth. The savings the government is making in the maintenance of road infrastructure is enormous, as some 50 per cent of the goods moving into the hinterland is transported by railway.
Import tonnage moved 12,414,615 tonnes. Export and empty containers delivered via SGR stand at 439,565 TEUs, contributing to 1,509,778 tonnes. This has positively enhanced cargo throughput from the port by rail, reducing duel time and quick turnaround on vessels at the port.
The improved service has seen a daily wagon supply for containerized cargo oscillating between 400 to 450 per 24 hours. With the recently introduced new service on double deck wagons on containers, two such trains are currently active, delivering 152 TEUs per move.
To further enhance service improvement, conventional bulk loading using both high open wagons and special containers has been ongoing, enabling daily delivery of 7000 tonnes per day of wheat to Nairobi for both local and transit clients. With the recent operational coordination merger of KR, KPA and KRA with joint approach on port operations, both organisations are currently working together to provide seamless cargo evacuations needs.
According to KRA records, the month of December 2020 recorded the highest tax collection. Cargo security has also been enhanced since all cargo loadings are coordinated from designed loading zones, with all required agencies in attendance.
Cargo is then duly escorted from the port to the two ICDs (Nairobi /Naivasha) before clients’ clearance for last mile delivery. Notably, the port has seen improvement on cargo volumes, with many vessels’ docking attributed to fluidity on cargo offtake by the SGR.
The SGR operations have continued to offer employment opportunities both directly and indirectly. Many qualified locals are playing key roles and engagements. Following the successful skills transfer exercises, there are currently over 200 Kenyans in supervisory positions, ranking from Team Leader to Management roles within Afristar. Indeed, the localisation of SGR operations, currently at nearly 90 per cent, is a direct result of professional development opportunities available to staff. Currently, the firm employs 29 qualified Kenyan locomotive drivers.
As the government continues to mitigate the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the SGR operator ensures strict adherence to the laid down protocols. Proper checks and temperature testing have been the norm before journey commencements. Bookings are done online, reducing unnecessary visit to the stations.
Given the resilience of and key milestones achieved by the SGR within the last three years, it remains the preferred mode of transport. The milestones include the launch of the Nairobi-Mombasa passenger train in June 2017, the launch of the inter-county passenger service in November 2017, the inauguration of Phase 2A passenger service by President Kenyatta in October 2019 and the celebration of safely operating the Madaraka Express service for 1,000 days.