Thursday, 9 January 2014

Nine counties eye EAC trade in joint rail upgrade plan

By Moses Odhiambo Business Daily

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

The phased development plan will see growth of rail transport linking Kakamega, Vihiga, Siaya, Homa Bay, Kisii, Nyamira, Kericho and Nandi counties covering 500 kilometres interlinking 57 stations.

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

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

The plan has also outlined the third corridor of 17km between Kibos and the Kisumu Airport. The fourth corridor will link Chavakali in Vihiga County and Kapsabet through a 51-kilometre rail line.

From Otonglo, another 70 kilometres line will be built through Yala to Siaya town with six stops. Another 100km corridor will connect Nyamira and Kisii counties with nine stations.
“Another route of 70km 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 that the revival plans are at an advanced stage starting from the city’s infrastructure to the other regions within the network.

According to the governor, the project also targets the renewal of transport in Lake Victoria aimed to tap into strategic location in the region. Under the plan, there are considerations to move the old railway station to Kibos to give way for development of hotels.

Homa Bay Governor Cyprian Awiti confirmed that the county would work towards realisation of the dream to have a railway line to cater for the delivery of agricultural produce to markets.

Kisumu port  railways manager Mwalimu Disi told the Business Day that the other consideration for counties is to work with the national government to implement the Vision 2030 master plan that would maintain the dry dock as a terminus to serve both rail and marine transport.

In the proposed Vision 2030 project, plans have been drawn to develop the 75 acres of prime land owned by the Kenya Railways stretching from the centre of Kisumu city to the shores of Lake Victoria.

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

The county expected to share the draft document in a consultative forum with stakeholders and the business community ahead of implementing the new design.
Mr Disi also disclosed that a variety of commercial buildings, business park for light manufacturing and assembly points would also be integrated in the plan.

The official said that a pool of engineering consultants are already working on the project’s viability and would thus recommend the level of investments required to resume operations at the idle Kisumu pier and railway station.

“The project intends to put up two hotels with conference facilities to accommodate 2000 people, shopping arcades malls and restaurants, business outsourcing park and an ultra-modern railway station” said Mr Disi

The scheme is also expected to boost tourism in the Lake Victoria region upon completion.

During a recent presentation in Kisumu, Mr Bergerhoff said that the main railway station would be located in Kisumu with the interconnections built in phases within three years after launch of the project.

“To start with, a railway line to connect major residential areas of Nyalenda, Otonglo, Mamboleo from the main station, will also be built,” he said

Mr Bergerhoff called on the East African Community (EAC) states considering railway upgrades to take into account the opportunities offered in reviving the port interconnections across the main lakes Victoria and Tanganyika.
“Developing inland ports should be a priority to the EAC in the planned railway upgrades, which will eventually make the region realize its dream of expanding its markets capacity stretching beyond Lake Victoria” Mr Ranguma

Mr Ranguma said that the plans to upgrade the railway would complement the African Development Bank Funded Kisumu Urban project that aims to uplift the ability of the town to handle business of the EAC magnitude.

The urban project has prioritised upgrades in transport infrastructure of the ports and rail systems as part of a grand plan to rehabilitate the ports in Kisumu, Homa Bay and Siaya counties.

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

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

The new plan seeks to change Kisumu’s layout to face the lake unlike the current situation where the Asian-owned shops that dominated the infrastructural design had the city give the lake its back diminishing its appeal as a tourist attraction presented by the expansive view of the second-largest fresh water lake in the word.Business Daily