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Eight governors have agreed to help fund a Sh25 billion railway project.
The work will involve the rehabilitation of a 240-kilometre line from Nairobi to Nanyuki in Laikipia County. Afterwards, there are plans to build a line from Nanyuki to Kenya’s border with Ethiopia.
The railway is expected to traverse a dozen counties.
Each of the eight county governments committed itself to contributing Sh100 million to jumpstart the revival of the railway built by colonialists in 1913. Use of the line stopped about two decades ago.
Four county bosses — Mr Wahome Gakuru (Nyeri); Mr Ferdinand Waititu (Kiambu); Mr Polycarp Igathe, representing Nairobi’s Mike Sonko; and the host, Mr Ndiritu Muriithi (Laikipia) — attended a consultative meeting on the issue on Friday.
Their counterparts from Murang’a, Kirinyaga, Isiolo and Nyandarua sent their apologies.
The governors also announced plans to extend the railway to Isiolo town at a later date, with a view to linking it up with the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport corridor.
Kenya Railways managing director Atanas Maina, who attended the Friday meeting at the Maiyan Resort in Nanyuki, put the estimated cost of the Nairobi-Nanyuki rail project at Sh25 billion.
“The Sh100 million pledged by the county governments is a show of commitment to the project. The national government is expected to finance the project, with support from development partners,” Mr Maina told journalists after the closed-door meeting.
He said the railway infrastructure is intact but dilapidated in some sections. He added that the money would be used in upgrading the track and buying new locomotives as well as wagons.
“Currently, the railway is what we call the 50-pound-load type, which is only capable of carrying three light locomotives. We intend to upgrade it to 80-pound load so that a single train can carry 1,400 tonnes of goods,” said Mr Maina.
Besides benefiting oil companies, the railway service is expected to spur economic growth in the Mt Kenya region through boosting of inter-county trade in agricultural and livestock produce.
Mr Igathe, who is the Nairobi Deputy Governor, said rail transport would help in addressing some of the problems facing the capital city owing to a high population growth.
“Once the line becomes operational, we envisage a situation where public transport vehicles from central Kenya will be dropping passengers in Ruiru town. From there, they will use the train to reach Nairobi. This will greatly help in reducing traffic congestion in the central business district,” said Mr Igathe.
He added that the Nairobi County was building rail parks in Ruiru, Dandora, Githurai and Donholm estates at a cost of (Sh3.3 billion) through the Nairobi Metropolitan Services Improvement Project.
Hawkers will be moved from the city centre to the rail parks, where they can sell their goods to passengers as they disembark from trains or board them.
Mr Waititu said his government is also putting up open-air markets in Ruiru, Juja and Thika towns, where fresh agricultural produce would be delivered through trains from central Kenya.
This article first appeared on www.nation.co.ke
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