The government has embarked on a massive project to improve the capacity of rail transportation in Nairobi city to reduce congestion during peak hours.
Commuter Rail Unit Interim Head (MOTIHUD) from Kenya Railways Dr. Mucemi Gakuru said the rail commuter network in the city would decongest roads, as increasing the number of daily flights would help to ferry a large number of people at once making them reach their workplaces on time.
He told KNA the rail services would concentrate in areas where there were large settlements, as most settlements were located around the railway line.
Dr. Gakuru said the Kenya Railway has already put in place a Masterplan that has identified areas that need to be done within six to 12 months, a move he said would boost the passenger numbers from the current 11, 000 to over 70, 000 passengers per day.
“In the masterplan, the Corporation will upgrade 20 mini stations which are currently halts, repair existing locomotives and procure diesel multiple-unit trains (DMUs) which are powered by on-board diesel engine, modernize Nairobi Central Station, undertake urgent civil works on critical sections of the tracks and create a passing loop at Imara Daima.
“The strongest demand is over the Ruiru-Nairobi Central section, with flows of around 10, 000 departing from Ruiru, rising to almost 25, 000 by Makadara stations,” he added.
He noted that flows of 7, 000 to 11, 000 passengers occurred West of Lenana, North-East of Ruiru, South of Nairobi Terminus, while the Thika-Nairobi Central line accounts for 46 percent of the total demand.
Dr. Gakuru however noted that currently, the corporation has a small commuter service in the morning hours plying various destinations which is not adequate to transport the large population.
“At the moment, we can only ferry a small number of the population because we have few locomotives and most of the rails are dilapidated,” said Gakuru.
Briefing the Nairobi County Development Implementation Committee members during a familiarization tour of the Nairobi Railway Central Station facility, Dr. Gakuru said the rehabilitation of the railway networks would increase the number of daily flights and operational fleet, as well as provide efficient and reliable control systems.
The CDICC team led by the Chair, Nairobi County Commissioner Flora Mworoa and Secretary Mr. Kinoti Gitobu from the President’s Delivery Unit, visited the Nairobi Central Station, Makadara, Mwiki, Githurai, and Kahawa West stations using a locomotive.
Dr. Gakuru also announced that the second phase of the programme would see Kenya Railway build two new stations and improve accessibility to eight others, construct a new depot, purchase six new diesel electric multiple units (DEMUs) to be purchased for a fleet mix of refurbished locomotives, as well as provide efficient and reliable control systems.
He said the French government in July 2018, accepted to finance a grant for the implementation of study of the full development of Line 4 from Nairobi Central Station to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), and an extension of the section from Nairobi terminus to JKIA, saying that development would increase the commuter rail passenger traffic to 230, 000 per day.
He added that the rehabilitation programme has also received funding from World Bank.
“We are going to remove the whole of rail truck and put a heavy rail and extend the Nairobi terminus to the airport,” Dr. Gakuru said.
He added that the rehabilitation of the railway infrastructure would position Nairobi as a leading world city for commuter rail services with an overall demand of 127, 000 journeys in the morning peak hour estimated at 1.4 million per day.
Mworoa commended Kenya Railway for the good work they were undertaking saying that the completion of the on-going works would help a lot of Kenyans using rail transport.
She, however, expressed concern over the encroachment by traders along the railway line saying their presence posed a danger to lives.
“This is a calamity in waiting. We cannot allow them to operate this way,” she stressed.
The commuter rail services routes will include Nairobi-Thika, Nairobi-Ruiru, Nairobi-Ngong-Lenana-Kibra, Nairobi- Airport, Nairobi-Embakasi village, Nairobi-Kitengela-Lukenya-Stoni Athi-Konza.
Kenya Railways plans to extend the rail services in future from Embakasi to Ruai.