• Macharia said the project was sanctioned by the government to ensure complete connectivity from the port of Mombasa to Malaba.
• Phase one of the SGR started from Mombasa to Nairobi, a distance of 472 kilometers.
The government has defended its move to construct a new meter-gauge railway connecting Naivasha's Inland Container Terminal and Longonot old line. On Tuesday, Transport CS James Macharia, Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa, Tourism CS Najib Balala, and Industrialization CS Betty Maina toured the site.
The government has defended its move to construct a new meter-gauge railway connecting Naivasha's Inland Container Terminal and Longonot old line.
On Tuesday, four CSs toured the project site.
James Macharia(Transport), Eugene Wamalwa (Devolution), Najib Balala (Tourism), and Betty Maina (Industrialisation) toured the site.
Macharia said plans are still on to have SGR link neighboring countries.
"This project is critical. It involves the construction of a new line of meter gauge from the Naivasha ICD that goes to Longonot which is Naivasha town a distance of about 23 kilometers," Macharia said.
The CS said that from Longonot, the old line will be rehabilitated all the way to Malaba, a distance of 465 kilometers.
Macharia said the project was sanctioned by the government to ensure complete connectivity from the port of Mombasa to Malaba.
Phase one of the SGR started from Mombasa to Nairobi, a distance of 472 kilometers.
The line was later extended to Naivasha, a distance of 150 kilometers.
Macharia said as the country plans for the future SGR, the state thought it was important to make sure that there was a complete connectivity from Mombasa to Malaba.
"That is why we decided to do this section of MGR upgrade to make sure we have the goods coming from Mombasa all the way to Malaba," he said.
Macharia said the state is happy with the progress of the Sh10 billion project.
"The idea was to do it within one year, but we have gone through the details of the project and it has been confirmed to us that it will three months a head of schedule. This is critically important," he said.
The CS said from June this year, there will be connectivity for the 23 kilometers between ICD and Lonognot.
By September, the connectivity to Malaba will have been completed.
There after, passenger trains which we do not run right now will be run from Naivasha all the way to Malaba, he said.
Macharia said a transshipment center for goods from SGR to MGR will be created in Naivasha.
"We have been shown how it will be done with a lot of efficiency and this is what will create value. There will be an industrial hub here," he said.
Macharia said the project be a game-changer as it will shorten the distance traveled through the road.
He said a major impact will be seen in about three or four months from now.
"If you take the SGR train from Mombasa to ICD, it is exactly 10 hours. If you are to use the truck to bring goods from Mombasa to Naivasha, it will take you two or three days. When we rehabilitate this line, it will possibly take 12 hours. It will take 20 hours between Mombasa and the border. If you compare that with the truck, it takes almost five days," he said.
He said mechanisms are in place to make sure that it will be more competitive to use the rail as opposed to using the road.
Macharia said the train has helped reduce accidents, the spread of the corona virus, and damage to the roads.
The CS denied claims that the state had shifted its policy saying SGR was conceptualized as a regional project.
"We even have what we signed called the SGR protocol. We signed the protocol ourselves, Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan. That still remains. But in the meantime even before we complete sections from Naivasha to Kisumu, we said we need to enhance connectivity in the interim period from Naivasha all the way to the border. We have not shifted the policy. Eventually, this SGR will still be complete," he said.
Macharia said SGR from Mombasa to Nairobi has a high speed of 80 kilometers per hour and carries more cargo.
He said the MGR will have a speed of between 50 and 60 kilometers per hour.
"The one from Mombasa to Nairobi is a long-term investment which will last about 100 years," he said.
Macharia said they are very sensitive to social status of citizens.
"Whenever you do roads, railways, we are very sensitive to make sure we do not adversely affect people in that line. We have what we call project affected persons. They get compensated when we are taking the land," he said.
Those who encroach on the corridor are given adequate notice to move.
"This is not the first. We did one from Thika to Nanyuki. The key thing is to make sure that if you have a valid title for which we are taking your land, you are properly compensated," he said.
Macharia said the ICD will extremely be busy by June.
Maina on her part said the importance of infrastructure in spurring economic development cannot be gain said.
Next to the ICD here, we shall have a special economic zone, she said.
"I think we have talked about the Naivasha special economic zone for a long time but we are actually seeing the possibilities right now. We have a 1,000 acres and we have done the plot surveys and plot allocations," Maina said.
Maina said there are seven investors so far who have been allocated land adding that more will come calling once the infrastructure is complete.
"We already have some that have expressed interests in offering services like hospitality such as hotels and restaurants because they have seen the activity," she said.
Maina said sometimes, it is difficult for investors to put their money before they see infrasttucture.
The CS said the multi-billion railway project previously attracted criticism after it was described "as railway to nowhere."
"In two years, you have actually seen the transformation of this place. I recall when President Moi was still running the country and he build up a road around Kabarnet, many people said it was just a road for goats but now when you go into that area, it has spurred development," Maina said adding that infrastructure pulls development.
She said such development inspires people to go and purchase plots and put up investments because they see results.
"This infrastructure spending is expensive, we agree but is really leading to the growth of our economy and we see that all the time," Maina said.
She said the government was putting more infrastructure from a regional perspective.
"Once we mordenise this MGR to Malaba, our colleagues from Uganda are also building up their bit. We should be able to see offloading of transport from the road to the rail and even if we use both, it gives us a grater possibility as a region of of taking a lot more products from the region for our exports which are by the way increasing," Maina said.
Balala said the opening up of the region will help boost tourism.