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Railway to connect eight western counties in new transport plan

Workers weed overgrown grass to maintain railway tracks in Kisumu yesterday.

Workers weed overgrown grass to maintain railway tracks in Kisumu yesterday.

Western Kenya counties have come up with a grand plan to revive railway transport to boost investment and ease people’s movement.

The phased development project will link Kakamega, Siaya, Homa Bay, Kisii, Nyamira, Kericho and Nandi counties by a railway covering 500 kilometres with 57 stations.

The rail development concept, drawn by consultants from Poyry Railways Inc, has highlighted the routes to include a central station in Kisumu. This will be linked to the standard gauge railway being built from the port of Mombasa.

According to the plan, the first corridor of 115 kilometres stretches from the main Kisumu station to Otonglo, Mamboleo, Muhoroni and Kericho with 10 stations on the route.

“There shall also be established a second corridor of 68 kilometres of 10 stations linking Kisumu to Kakamega through Mbale town,” stated Poyry project manager Christian Bergerhoff during the unveiling of the plan.

A third corridor of 17 kms would connect Kibos, Kisumu Town and the Kisumu airport while the fourth would link Chavakali and Kapsabet through a 51km line.
NINE STATIONS

CaptureFrom Otonglo, another 70km line would be built to pass through Yala to Siaya Town with six stops, while Nyamira and Kisii counties would be linked through a 100 km corridor with nine stations.

“Another route of 70 kilometres will break off from Katito towards Homa Bay, with nine stops along the line at various points to feed the lake piers,” he said.

Kisumu Governor Jack Ranguma said the revival plans were at an advanced stage starting from the lakeside town’s infrastructure to other regions within the network.

The project would revamp transport in Lake Victoria to tap into the strategic location in the region, the governor said.

Under the concept, the old railway station at the lake front could be moved to Kibos to give way for development of hotels.

Homa Bay Governor Cyprian Awiti confirmed his county would be part of the project to have a railway line to cater for the delivery of agricultural produce to markets.

“We are very ready,” he said. “We have had problems of transport in Homa Bay save for the recently opened tarmac road linking Katito to the junction headed to Mbita.”

The county was eager to help work on the rail system to create means for delivery of farm produce from the recently initiated Agricity development, he added.

Kisumu port railways manager Mwalimu Disi told the Nation that the county was considering working with the national government to maintain the dry dock as a terminus to serve both rail and marine transport as per Vision 2030 development master plan.

In the national blueprint, 75 acres of prime land owned by the Kenya railways stretching from the centre of Kisumu to the shores of Lake Victoria have been earmarked for development.

The railway upgrade is envisaged to provide direct link to the Kisumu International Airport, according to Mr Disi.

MORE THAN JUST A LINE

The western Kenya railway development concept is at an advanced stage and Kisumu County is expected to share the draft document with stakeholders and the business community at a consultative forum towards implementation of the new design.

Kisumu Governor Jack Ranguma said the revival plans were at an advanced stage starting from the lakeside town’s infrastructure to other regions within the network.

A team of engineering consultants was working on the project’s viability and would recommend the level of investments required to resume activities at the idle Kisumu pier and railway station, he said.

“The project intends to put up two hotels with conference facilities to accommodate 2,000 people, shopping arcades, malls and restaurants, business outsourcing park and an ultra-modern railway station,” said Mr Disi.

The project would create a base for Lake Victoria cruise tourism and international water sports to attract visitors coming through the national standard gauge railway expected to reach Kisumu at the time of completion in 2018.

During a recent talk in Kisumu, Mr Bergerhoff stated that the main station for the regional network would be located in Kisumu with the interconnections being built in phases within three years.

“To start with, there shall be built a railway line to connect major residential areas of Nyalenda, Otonglo, Mamboleo from the main station,” he explained.

PASSENGERS AND CARGO

Mr Bergerhoff said seven more corridors would be linked to the Kisumu main station through routes across counties via several stations for passengers and cargo.

He called on East African Community (EAC) countries considering railway upgrade to take advantage of opportunities offered in reviving Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika port interconnections.

“Developing inland ports should be a priority to the EAC in the planned railway upgrades, which will eventually make the region realise its dream of expanding its markets capacity,” concurred Mr Ranguma.

The governor stated that the railway upgrade project would supplement the African Development Bank-funded Kisumu Urban Project that intends to uplift the town to handle business from the EAC region.

The urban project has prioritized upgrades in its transport systems of the ports and rail systems as part of a grand plan focusing on the rehabilitation of the ports in Kisumu; Homa Bay and Siaya county to accommodate rail and water transport needs.

“Through the EAC we should expect to see more centralized planning for regional infrastructure to achieve synergy and mostly avoid duplication of capacity” Mr Ranguma.

He added that the rail upgrade will factor the redesigned outlook of the city to accommodate the ever growing population in consultation with the French Development Agency which has finalized the new layout for the city’s infrastructure.

The new plan has sought to change Kisumu to be built facing the lake unlike the current situation where the Asian-owned shops that dominated the infrastructural design had the city give the lake its back which also minimized the touristic appeal presented by the expansive view of the second largest fresh water lake in the word.

COUNTY LOOKING FORWARD

“For us, we are very ready; we have had problems of transport in Homa Bay save for the recently opened tarmac road linking Katito to the junction headed to Mbita,” said Mr Awiti.

He said that the county was looking forward to working on the rail system to help in the delivery of farm products from the recently initiated Agricity development project alongside the agreement signed with the Intercontinental Maritime that intends to revive lake transport.

Mr Awiti called upon the governors from counties neighboring Lake Victoria to be aggressive towards implementation of the investment projects that have been cited beyond the paperwork for such initiatives.

“We want all these county governments to build a common database for investors seeking to partner with Migori, Homa bay, Siaya, Kisumu and Busia,” explained Mr Awiti.

He said that the county has also partnered with its neighbours to expand some of the gains that these businesses can achieve by the economies of scale presented by population.

The governors stated that they are looking to various partnerships to bridge the budget constraints that may limit the implementation of projects in the counties.

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