Lake region bloc eyes first green railway line

It is working with Indian agencies to run train driven by solar power

In Summary

• The bloc has already signed a deal to build the railway, is awaiting state approval

• It comes after some officials had a ride in a green energy-operated train in India

LREB chief executive Victor Nyangaya during the Kakamega International Investment Conference at Masinde Muliro university
LREB chief executive Victor Nyangaya during the Kakamega International Investment Conference at Masinde Muliro university

The Lake Region Economic Bloc is working on the first railway line to be run by green energy in Kenya.

The 14-county bloc is partnering with the Indian two Indian state corporations to construct a light railway line and produce 380 Megawatts of solar power to realise the project.

LREB chief executive Victor Nyangaya said the bloc has already signed a deal to build the railway.

“We went to India and some officials had a ride in the green energy-operated train,” he said.

“The Indian government is only waiting for the nod from their Kenyan counterpart before the project commences.”

The Indian partners are National Thermal Power Corporation and Dedicated Corridor Freight Railway Corporation.

Nyangaya said the railway project will cost $4.5 billion (Sh593 billion),  while harnessing solar power will cost $500 million (Sh65 billion).

The bloc plans to generate at least 20 Megawatts of solar energy in each of the 14 member counties, totalling 280 megawatts across the bloc.

It is also implementing a 100-megawatt solar power project using floating solar panels on Lake Kanyaboli in Siaya county. 

“These are the two flagship projects that seek to ensure uninterrupted power supply in the lake region and lower the cost of electricity by 40 per cent from what Kenya Power is charging,” he said.

“All these investments in power generation are meant to ensure steady supply because it will be used to run the light railway we are planning to construct.” 

Meanwhile, designs for the proposed Crescent Road around the shires of Lake Victoria by the World Bank are complete.

Nyangaya said Tanzania and Uganda have already signed their part and only Kenya is yet to sign.

He said the light railway project seeks to ease the transfer of goods and people from county to county and enhance trade within the lake region.

“It will reduce the cost of transport from what it is today by carrying more people at an affordable rate,” Nyangaya said.

He said the bloc has established the Lake Region Co-operative Society to address the bloc's financial service needs in place of a regional bank that was initially proposed.

“We hope to grow the society to the level of transforming it into a bank,” he said.

“It is a longer route to a bank but we shall finally get there. The regional bank idea died after the national government declined to support it.

“Governors had agreed that each county gives Sh200 million to reach the National Treasury’s threshold for a bank, but when they had started paying, the Controller of Budget said counties cannot use the money they receive through sharable revenue to run a bank.”

Nyangaya said the bloc boasts of 14 million people, with a vibrant youthful labour that can support any investment, whether service-oriented or products.

It must act as one unit in attracting investments and maximising the use of natural resources like rivers that crisscross the region to achieve economic relevance, he said. 

Rivers including Yala, Nyando, Gucha and Nzoia are flowing into Lake Victoria while untapped upstream for agricultural use, yet the region provides the best climate.

“It's regrettable that most counties in the region are net importers of everything, including vegetables, while selling nothing to the outside world,” he said.

“Therefore, they are failing in meaningful value chain production and in essence have poverty high incidences.”

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