More commuters to use trains as rail rehabilitation nears completion

Expect improved services, KR boss assures commuters

In Summary

• Seventy per cent of Nairobi's four million population uses public transport.

• KR recently imported rehabilitated Diesel Multiple Units to move Nairobi railway passengers from about 300,000 a month to three million.

A train wagon at the Port of Mombasa
A train wagon at the Port of Mombasa


Railway commuters will soon enjoy improved services as the upgrade of railway lines nears completion.

The rehabilitation is also aimed at increasing the capacity of commuter trains, Kenya Railways managing director Philip Mainga said.

“There will be an enhanced commuter safety as well as source of employment for locals,” Mainga told the Star on Monday.

The parastatal recently imported secondhand Diesel Multiple Units with a life span of 25 years to move Nairobi railway passengers from about 300,000 a month to three million.

Nairobi has a population of about four million people, 70 per cent of whom are dependent on public transport.

Deloitte City Mobility Index says Nairobi lacks integrated public transport, leading to high congestion levels despite only 13 per cent of trips being made by cars.

The index reviews major cities on key aspects of mobility and the resulting relationship to economic performance.

Authorities are looking into intelligent transport system solutions to eradicate congestion in the city. Estimates conducted in 2015 showed traffic congestion costs Nairobi close to  Sh60 million (US$570,000) per day.

Traffic management is mainly manual, and where traffic signals are operational, they are often overridden by traffic police with varying degrees of efficiency.

The index said Nairobi is, however, moving towards a formal public transport system, thanks to new investments.

This has been made possible with the help of international development organisations with the country having launched development of non-motorised transport.

The master plan for the county includes US$1 billion investment to introduce Bus Rapid Transport and a light rail system.

The first phase of this plan is to be rolled out in 2018-2030.

Mainga said the corporation has so far rehabilitated five stations in Nairobi, four in Kiambu and one in Machakos.

The stations are Mwiki, Dandora, Donholm, Pipeline, Embakasi Village, Ruiru, Kahawa, Githurai, Kikuyu and Athi River.

Mainga said the Nairobi Central station is being upgraded. 

Rail transport produces fewer carbon emissions compared to road transport and it is also cost effective.

The MD said plans are in place to automate ticketing. “The plans are still in place. All the Nairobi commuter stations are targeted to have automated ticketing,” Mainga said.

He said the imported DMUs will start working soon. “The routes scheduled include Nairobi Central station to Syokimau, Embakasi Village, Ruiru and Kikuyu.” 

The city's commuter rail is operational.

Mainga warned that encroachers on the corporation’s land will be repulsed. “The reclamation of encroached land is still in progress. We target to reclaim all the encroached land along the railway network,” the MD asserted.

To ensure reclaimed land is not encroached on again, Mainga said the corporation will be fence the railway corridor.

Security will also be deployed along the line to ensure land is not encroached on again. The corporation also has plans to import more refurbished DMUs.

The 11 refurbished Diesel Multiple Units were bought from Spanish firm Serveis Ferroviaris de Mallorca (SFM).

The train units (10 double and one triple) were sold to KRC for 9.6 million euros (Sh1.17 billion).

The sale agreement was signed on April 20 by the minister of Mobility and Housing, Marc Pons and Kenya's ambassador to Spain Richard Opembe in the company of KR chairman Pastor Awitta and Mainga.

The sale is inclusive of spare parts, wheel profiling and training of KR staff by internal SFM officials.