• Murkomen said there has been a change in customer preference to the use of rail and sea, especially in Europe when it comes to transportation of perishable goods.
• He said the reefer wagons will enable Kenya transport its horticultural produce by sea to conform to global preferences.
The Kenya Railways Corporation has procured 500 additional wagons, among them reefer wagons to transport horticultural and fresh produce.
A reefer wagon is a refrigerated railway wagon with cooling equipment to keep perishable produce fresh.
Transport CS Kipchumba Murkomen said there has been a change in customer preference to the use of rail and sea, especially in Europe when it comes to transportation of perishable goods.
He said the reefer wagons will enable Kenya transport its horticultural produce by sea to conform to global preferences.
“The government, through KRC and KPA, is looking to increase its freight market share of the port throughput from 26 per cent in 2022 to 42 per cent in 2027,” Murkomen said.
He spoke while flagging off the first 50 of the procured 500 standard gauge railway wagons.
Another 250 wagons will arrive in two weeks from Tianjian in China.
The wagons will help move more cargo through the SGR within a short time.
Each of the new wagons has a capacity of at least 70 tonnes, enabling movement of heavy containerised cargo.
“This is laudable as it reduces damage to our roads,” Murkomen said.
The CS said another 20 SGR coaches are expected to arrive in the country in the next few weeks.
These comprise four business class coaches, three first class coaches, 12 economy coaches and one power car.
“Of these, six will have provision for people with disabilities,” Murkomen said.
Kenya Ports Authority managing director Captain William Ruto said with the reefer wagons, transporting flowers from Nairobi to Mombasa will take five to six hours as opposed to transporting reefer containers by road, which takes about 15 hours and is dangerous.
KRC managing director Philip Mainga said in the next three months, all the 500 new wagons will have arrived in the country.
He said the plan is to keep on increasing the fleet of wagons, locomotives and coaches to make transportation of goods and passengers more efficient.
“Our numbers are going to increase tremendously and our customers will not have any challenge anymore,” Mainga said.
“We are glad now that through the ministry we got the required financing to increase our fleet in terms of wagons and the number of locomotives that we use to move cargo from Mombasa to ICD Nairobi, ICD Naivasha and all the way to Kampala, and through the lake all the way to Jinja and Fort Bella and Mwanza.”
He said the interconnection between the SGR and the MGR will become a simpler thing and will help move more goods and passengers within the region.
KRC had not increased the fleet of SGR wagons for six years. More wagons for the metre gauge railway are in the pipeline.
CS Murkomen said Kenya has to continuously improve its transport infrastructure to remain competitive in the global market.
“Railway transport is a key enabler of the aspiration set out in our country’s long-term development blueprint, Vision 2030,” he said.
Murkomen said the volume of cargo transported via MGR increased by 21 per cent from 787,000 tonnes in 2022 to 1,955,000 tonnes in 2023.
Volume of cargo transported via SGR also increased by seven per cent from 6,090,000 tonnes in 2022 to 6,533,028 tonnes in 2023.
“Passengers through SGR increased by 12 per cent from 2,393,000 in 2022 to 2,727,727 in 2023,” Murkomen said.
He said the numbers need to be sustained and boosted through reforms and investment.
Captain Ruto said operational efficiency at the Mombasa port has necessitated the increase of wagons as the port experiences more volumes.
In January, for instance, the Mombasa port moved more cargo volumes than it has ever moved in history in a month, setting a record of more than 161,000 TEUs.
The highest previously was in May 2023, when the port did 155,000 TEUs.
“We will also be introducing the reefer wagons. So, we will be able to help our farmers who are exporting flowers and fresh produce,” Captain Ruto said.
“The volumes that we are handling, coupled with the investments that Kenya Railways has made in wagons will go a long way in improving our efficiency.”
The SGR has a freight fleet of 1,620 wagons for moving containerised bulk and unbulked cargo.
However, with increased demand for both local and transit cargo, it is necessary to enhance the fleet, Murkomen said.
The 500 new wagons were procured by KRC based on the projected growth of 30 per cent for 2024-25, according to Murkomen.
The 500 wagons comprise of 300 SGR wagons and 200 MGR wagons.
He said the rehabilitation of the Kisumu port has revitalised lake transport and significantly contributed to growth of the blue economy.
Kenya is engaging Uganda to build the SGR from Naivasha into Uganda through the Malaba border.