THE STANDARD GAUGE RAILWAY A BOOST FOR THE REGION’S ROAD TRANSPORTERS

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The Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) is a flag ship project under Kenya’s Vision 2030 development blueprint that seeks to simplify passenger and cargo transport cost effectively across the Mombasa – Malaba. The Kes. 327B railway line is designed to carry 22 million tonnes a year of cargo (approximately 40% of the Mombasa Port throughput) by 2035. The freight trains will have a capacity of 216 containers ferried at an average speed of 80 km/h. The SGR project is proposed to connect Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan. Ultimately, the SGR will inch Kenya closer to the vision’s ambition to make Kenya a middle class economy by 2030. The construction of the 473 kilometres line commenced in October 2013, and latest reports from the Ministry of Transport determine that the railway will be ready for use ahead of its December 2017 deadline.

Contrary to public opinion, the SGR will provide a much needed boost to road transporters in Kenya. The SGR is predicted to enhance efficiency and reduce the time and cost of cargo movement from the busy Mombasa Port. The global standard for cargo freight logistics is 60-40 in favor of rail. However, due to current inefficiencies in the rail system, Kenya is yet to achieve this standard. Job Kemboi, the General Manager in Siginon Global Logistics Tanzania says “The SGR is not a threat but a complement to road transporters. The SGR is most suitable to handle containers destined to Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.”

Currently, the Kenyan transport industry consists of approximately 15,000 trucks that are at times over whelmed by the amount of cargo discharged at the port of Mombasa for onward road transportation to serve customers along the Northern corridor and the hinterland. The SGR will provide an advantage of fast and efficient cargo movement. Along the Mombasa –Nairobi stretch, the SGR will move cargo in 8 hours from destination, a trip that would often take 2 – 3 days if one was using the current rail network. This will lead to the reduction in the cost of transport and ultimately reduce the cost of doing business in Kenya. In addition, with faster movement of goods, there is enhanced cargo security due to reduced handling and exposure while on transit. Job Kemboi adds; “Once the new railway line is in place, it will offer a secure, cost effective and efficient cargo solutions. For us, we will be delighted to ensure our customers benefit from SGR as an alternative to their logistics needs.

With the reduction of trucks plying the Mombasa – Naivasha highway, more trucks will focus on serving customers in the hinterland, away from the Northern Corridor, this will likely result in reduced traffic jams particularly on the Mombasa – Nairobi stretch, which is often been blamed on cargo trucks in the course of business. Siginon Global Logistics is one company that has recently acquired over 100 trucks due to the increased demand for cargo transportation. The additional trucks are a testament to the confidence that truck operators have in their business despite the SGR commissioning. Job adds “We have a number of customers who are located inland, away from the Northern corridor who will still need road transportation. We are confident that the SGR is a partner and not a threat to road transporters.”

It is envisioned that the SGR comes with additional benefits not only for transporters but the regions macro economy. For instance, due to the various stations established along the Northern corridor myriad of employment opportunities will arise with the stations’ construction to running and maintenance. Areas that are positioned around these stations will likely see the development if towns leading to growth of economies and infrastructure development

Job concludes, “Once the new railway line is ready, we expect to have cost effective and more efficient movement of goods and services along the northern corridor. It’s not really about us but about the customer and we are in a position to offer all options.”