Why Uhuru’s second SGR train fails basic commuter logic
President Uhuru Kenyatta boarded the inaugural Nairobi-Suswa train on Wednesday, pushing the ignition on what seems to be the start of unfathomable commuter travel.
His maiden rail trip to Mombasa in 2017 made for an attractive offer as it slashed travel times by up to half.
However, the success of commuter services launched on Wednesday, from Nairobi to Suswa lies in doubt.
The new route sits well beyond the basics of inter-city travel with train stations falling outside the target satellite towns.
Phase 2A of the railway line ends abruptly in a remote village away from civilization; drawing blunt headlines such as ‘Rail-road to nowhere’.
A commute to Ongata Rongai town from the Nairobi CBD will for instance require one to first make their way down to the Syokimau Central Station.
This will extend the time taken on the already problematic route to the ‘diaspora’ town.
Passengers will also be forced to shoulder additional costs on last-mile connections to their destinations as all train stations fall outside major urban centers.
Looking at the bigger picture, the resulting pandemonium makes for the culmination of a lack-luster project whose funds were withdrawn in April.
The Chinese Government pulled out leaving the line’s completion to Naivasha in limbo: the State, however, denies that this is the case.
The sticky situation packs no surprises as its predecessor– the Nairobi-Mombasa SGR—downgrades to similar ends.
The railway line hit one million commutes in its first year of operations but the mainstay business, cargo lifting, has failed to deliver on expectations.
This forced the government’s hand and a pronouncement was made for compulsory SGR use by cargo handlers. It was later rescinded.
The paralysis of Kenya’s largest infrastructure undertaking since independence comes into the full glare of reality in just over two months to the commencement of repayments.
Kenya is to start paying back the estimated Ksh.324 billion loan to the China Import Export Bank (EXIM) in three months.