The government is considering an alternative route for the 472km Mombasa-Nairobi standard gauge railway, which will see it redesigned to avoid curving into the Nairobi National Park.
However, this will cost the government an extra Sh70 billion in a new route to commence from Athi River to Nairobi, Transport Principal Secretary Wilson Nyakera said yesterday.
The PS said talks are at an advanced stage to re-route the line to end an outcry by conservationists, who are opposed to the current proposed design which curves deep into the Park for about 50 kilometres.
“Not passing through the park is one of the options but it is a very expensive option. The alternative route is Athi River behind the migration route. The cost of the route alone is about $400 million (Sh40.6 billion), without adding compensation of say $300 million (Sh30.5 billion),” Nyakera said.
He said the ministry is in discussion with its environmental departments, Kenya Wildlife Service and stakeholders to “have something that is agreeable”, which involves a six kilometers diversion from the current plan.
“We are sitting down to come up with a harmonised approach that can save Kenyans money both now and during operations. The railway will not go through the park before we are in agreement,” he said.
The Sh327 billion Mombasa-Nairobi project which commenced on December 12, 2014 was 68 per cent complete by January, according to constructing company China Roads and Bridge Corporation. The first phase of the project is expected to be completed in June 2017.
The government has already secured a $1.5 billion (Sh152.3 billion) loan from China to extend the railway line from Nairobi to Naivasha in the second phase of the project, expected to commence next year.
On Wednesday, cabinet approved the development of the Naivasha-Kisumu-Malaba stretch of the SGR project, to be financed by the Chinese and Kenyan governments.
Financing of the entire second phase will cost $ 5 billion (Sh507 billion) according to the PS, which will incorporate buying of wagons and building a port in Kisumu, with a timeline of four and a half years.
“We are already in discussion with China Exim Bank. We should be signing a commercial agreement later this afternoon (Yesterday) then start discussing financing,” said Nyakera.
He was speaking during the unveiling of the China Roads and Bride Corporation Corporate Social Responsibility report.