Kenya Railways to launch passenger trains to Kisumu

Passengers from Mombasa to Kisumu will next month start travelling day and night in a seamless train service that links the standard gauge railway (SGR) line to the refurbished meter gauge track.

Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) managing director Philip Mainga said the move is meant to tap the increased demand due to passengers travelling to their rural homes next month ahead of December festivities.

Mr Mainga, however, remained tight-lipped on the exact date the train would resume operations in December, only confirming that “all arrangements have been set in place”.

Kenya Railways Corporation Managing Director and CEO Philip Mainga during an interview at his office on March 16, 2021./Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

Kenya Railways is setting a December date for the seamless services after the construction of a rail line linking the SGR to the older railway track in Longonot.

The company has spent billions of shillings on refurbishing its century-old rail network to boost bulk cargo transportation and passenger travel.

“All is set and we must have a passenger train on the refurbished line Kisumu this December. It will operate days and night,” he told the Business Daily in an interview.

The old line from Naivasha to Malaba has been operational but is in a bad condition, limiting cargo transportation.

The track from Nakuru, which goes through Njoro, Londiani, Kisumu and terminates at Butere, has not been in use.

The refurbishment of the Kisumu railway line is complete and works on the Malaba track are ongoing in the race to link the old railway track to SGR.

The train from Kisumu on the meter gauge rail will terminate its journey at the Naivasha station where passengers will be transferred to SGR via a new 23.5-km link line to Longonot.

The service comes more than a decade after the company stopped operating passenger trains to western Kenya due to the dilapidated state of the rail. It is not clear how much passengers would pay for the service.

Kenya dropped its plan to extend the SGR to Kisumu and later on to the Ugandan border after failing to secure a multibillion-shilling loan from China, which funded the first and second phases of the project.

The old line, which had a thriving passenger service in the 1990s, will form the major supply route to deliver cargo to the neighbouring countries through the Kisumu port.

Plans to upgrade it came after Uganda also announced that it would start refurbishing the old rail network to boost bulk cargo transportation, after failing to secure $2.2 billion in Chinese funding for a new SGR line.

A cargo rail business is critical to making the Kisumu port a viable public investment.

Kenya opened the Mombasa-Nairobi SGR line in 2017 and another new line to Naivasha in 2019.

It plans to link the old railway track to the SGR line in Naivasha for seamless cargo movements to the neighbouring countries.

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