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Low use of Nairobi to Suswa SGR raises viability question

The Nairobi-Suswa standard gauge railway (SGR) line has carried an average of 139 passengers a day in two months to mid-December, deepening doubts on viability of the multi-billion shilling project recently launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Latest data tabled in Parliament show that the trains ferried an average of 978 passengers on its two daily trips.

The low capacity saw slightly over 7,800 passengers use the line in two months since its commissioning, raising questions about the immediate benefit of the mega project to taxpayers.

“A total of 7,824 have been transported so far,” said the Ministry of Transport in the report.

Passengers only use 100km of the 120km of the railway line from Nairobi to Suswa that was built using a Sh150 billion Chinese loan.

Since unveiling of the commuter train service in mid-October last year, residents and passengers have complained the poor state of the access roads leading to railway line.

Commuters have been compelled to board two trains and, in some cases, pay more compared to the road transport.

The train services targeting residents of Ngong and Ongata Rongai have no direct link to the city centre, meaning one has to stop at Syokimau on either trip to complete the journey.

According to schedules released by the Kenya Railways, residents of Rongai pay Sh100 to Syokimau before taking another train at Sh50 to the city centre.

This compared to a matatu ride that costs on average Sh100 from Rongai, although it may take longer due to heavy traffic on the Magadi Road.

Kenya went slow on its bid to extend the SGR to Kisumu and later on to the Ugandan border after failing to secure a multi-billion-shilling loan from China, which funded the first and second phases of the new railway line. The Sh320 billion SGR line linking the Mombasa port with Nairobi was opened in May 2017, which was later linked to the Sh150 billion line to Naivasha.


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