Mombasa–Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway
|Mombasa–Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway|
|Opened||31 May 2017|
|Line length||485 km (301 mi)|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge|
|Electrification||None, upgrade planned|
|Operating speed||120 kilometres per hour (75 mph) (passenger)|
80 kilometres per hour (50 mph) (freight)
The Mombasa–Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway is a standard-gauge railway (SGR) in Kenya that connects the large Indian Ocean city of Mombasa with Nairobi, the country's capital and largest city. This SGR runs parallel to the narrow-gauge Uganda Railway that was completed in 1901 under British colonial rule. The East African Railway Master Plan provides for the Mombasa–Nairobi SGR to link with other SGRs being built in the East African Community.
At a cost of US$3.6 billion, the SGR is Kenya's most expensive infrastructure project since independence. The prime contractor was the China Road and Bridge Corporation CRBC, which hired 25,000 Kenyans to work on the railway. CRBC's holding company, China Communications Construction Company is contracted to operate the line for its first 5 years.
An extension from Nairobi to Naivasha was completed in October 2019.
The first fare-paying passengers boarded the "Madaraka Express" on Madaraka Day (1 June 2017), the 54th anniversary of Kenya's attainment of self-rule from Great Britain. Commercial freight services began on 1 January 2018. Passenger uptake has exceeded expectations, with the train carrying 2 million riders in the first 17 months of operation. By November 2018, the SGR was operating 30 freight trains and 4 passenger trains per day.
The Mombasa-Nairobi SGR generally runs parallel to the Uganda Railway, a metre-gauge that was built during British colonial rule. The SGR, however, has a straighter alignment that accommodates higher speeds. Because of the rough and hilly terrain, large portions of the SGR were built on viaducts and embankments and in cuttings.
For example, the Uganda Railway tackled the hilly terrain near Mazeras township by using a spiral. In contrast, the SGR passes through this area on two bridges, with the 43.5 metres (143 ft)-high Mazeras-2 bridge being the highest one on the route. As it approaches Nairobi, the SGR crosses the 2.6 kilometres (1.6 mi) Athi River Super Bridge, which at the time of its completion was the sixth-longest bridge in Africa. The SGR has a total of 98 bridges.
Another purpose of the SGR's viaducts and embankments is environmental protection. The SGR passes through the transportation corridor between Tsavo East National Park and Tsavo West National Park, which is also host to the Nairobi–Mombasa Road and the Uganda Railway. Because the road and metre-gauge railway were built at ground level, collisions with wildlife can occur. Viaducts and embankments elevate the SGR above ground level, with underpasses allowing wildlife to pass safely underneath.
There are nine passenger stations between Mombasa and Nairobi. Each station's architecture is inspired by local elements.
|Mombasa Terminus||Concentric circles and a central tower, representing a ripple in the ocean.|
|Mariakani||Porticos are inspired by coconut trees, which are plentiful in the region.|
|Miasenyi||White and brown stripes, inspired by the stripes of a zebra.|
|Voi||V-shaped like a person with raised hands, representing the spirit of Harambee. V is also the first letter of Voi.|
|Mtito Andei||Sloping roofs, representing Mount Kilimanjaro and the Chyulu Hills.|
|Kibwezi||Based on traditional African architecture, with leaves that shade passengers from the sun.|
|Emali||A closed fist, representing unity.|
|Athi River||Shaped like the region's hills.|
|Nairobi Terminus||Two trains with a bridge on top.|
Passengers can transfer at Nairobi Terminus to metre-gauge trains into the Nairobi city centre. Although they are designated as terminals, the Mombasa and Nairobi stations were built as through stations and were originally designated Mombasa West Station and Nairobi South Station. When Phase 2 of the SGR is completed, trains will continue through the Nairobi station to the Uganda border.
Kenya is a member of the Northern Corridor Integration Project (NCIP), which has selected the Chinese National Railway Class 1 standard for its railways. The adoption of a common standard allows for seamless integration between the railways of NCIP countries.
- Gauge: Standard-gauge
- Couplers: Janney AAR
- Brakes: Air
- Electrification: None, in planning
- Design capacity: 22 million tonnes per year
- Structure gauge: Sufficient for double-stack containers 
In the 2000s, Kenya's colonial-era metre-gauge railways deteriorated from lack of maintenance. By 2016, passenger trains were taking an entire day to travel from Nairobi to Mombasa, compared to 12 hours during the early 1990s. Freight transported from the Port of Mombasa fell from 4.8 million tonnes per year in the 1980s to 1.5 million tonnes per year in 2012. In 2014, the Rift Valley Railways Consortium, the operator of railways in Kenya and Uganda, reported a loss of US$1.5 million.
At the same time, the Chinese government was funding railway construction in other African countries. In 2011, Kenya signed a memorandum of understanding with the China Road and Bridge Corporation to build a standard-gauge railway between Mombasa and Nairobi. The US$3.6 billion railway was the largest infrastructure project in Kenya since independence. Financing was finalised in May 2014, with the Exim Bank of China extending a loan for 90 percent of the project cost and the remaining 10 percent coming from the Kenyan government. 25,000 Kenyans were hired to work on the project.
Tracklaying was completed in December 2016. Passenger service was officially inaugurated on 31 May 2017, eighteen months ahead of schedule.
|DF8B||CRRC Qishuyan||8||Freight locomotive|||
|DF7G||CRRC Qishuyan||2||Freight/Road switcher|||
|DF11||CRRC Qishuyan||5||Passenger locomotive|||
|25G||CRRC Nanjing Puzhen||39||Passenger coaches and support cars|||
|NX70||CRRC Qiqihar||150||Container car|||
The project cost of the first phase of the SGR from Mombasa to Nairobi was 90% financed by the Export-Import Bank of China. The remainder of the project cost was funded by the Kenyan government. The $3.23 billion financing from Exim was finalised in May 2014. Exim advanced the loan amount in two subsidized loans of US$1.63 billion each. One of the loans was a foreign aid loan provided on a concessional basis (very low interest rate) while the other was a below market rate preferential export buyer's credit. A condition imposed by the Kenyan government for the financing was 40% of the total project costs or about 130 billion Kenyan shillings would be spent on local supplies including sand, cement, electric cables, galvanised iron and steel.
A condition by Exim Bank for the loan was to have an operator acceptable to the bank for the initial phase of operations, which led the Kenyan government to reject a planned international tender and to contract the mother company of CRBC.
The operations of the SGR line are contracted to China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) for the first 5 years of operation. Many of the employees working for the SGR are Kenyans. However, as of July 2018, Chinese workers still occupy most of the critical positions, including dispatcher and locomotive driver. A full handover to Kenyans had not taken place after one year of operation, which triggered political controversy in Kenya. In China, it can take four years before a locomotive driver is allowed to begin solo operation of a train. The Transport Ministry has said that local staff will take over from the Chinese in 2027.
In 2018 the railway handled 1,665,627 passengers and 5,039,988 tonnes of freight. In 2019, the government passed a policy forcing all cargo being cleared in the port of Mombasa to be handled through what ended up being the more expensive railway, leading to protests from cargo transporters. According to the contract between Exim bank, Kenya Railways Corporation and Kenya Ports Authority the KPA is obliged to provide 1 million tonnes of freight from the strart of the opreation rising to 6 million by 2024.
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The Mombasa-Nairobi transport corridor divides East and West Tsavo, and wildlife, including Tsavo's elephant populations, frequently have to cross both the busy road and railway as they move from one area to another. Already this year at least 7 elephants have lost their lives in Tsavo alone due to accidents on the road and railway. ... The new railway will be raised off the ground by 4 metres and punctuated by tunnels for wildlife to pass through, so hopefully its construction will reduce the number of fatalities.
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I started work in 2009, and in 2013 I started driving alone.
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