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Nairobi Sh14bn light rails project set to finally start

The construction of light commuter rails to link Nairobi estates with the city centre is set to start after viability studies of the Sh14 billion project meant to ease congestion on roads.

The project, which has been on the cards for the past five years, will involve construction of nine railway transport corridors whose trains will pick commuters from several estates and drop them at the Nairobi Railway Station in the Central Business District (CBD).

The nine commuter corridors include Ruiru-Thika, Juja Road-Kangundo, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport-Athi River, Lang’ata Road-Karen and Upper Hill-Ngong.

Others are Kabete-Kikuyu, Gigiri-Limuru and Outer Ring Road in the city’s Eastlands area.

“Feasibility study has been completed and the preparation of terms of reference for detailed designs is ongoing,” reads a government note prepared by the Planning ministry.

PRIVATE INVESTORS

The government seeks to ride on deep-pocketed private investors to offer Sh14 billion ($138 million) and expertise for the construction of the city railroads under a public-private partnership (PPP).

In the deal, private firms will invest in the project, operate it for an agreed period to recoup their expenses and profit before handing it over to the State.

Nairobi residents continue to grapple with traffic jams daily as road expansion has failed to keep pace with the volume of cars being added to the roads.

Efforts to find out construction dates were unsuccessful as phone calls and text messages to the project implementing agency Kenya Railways Corporation’s managing director Atanas Maina went answered.

Currently, commuter trains are limited to a few estates with only a few stations including at Syokimau and Imara Daima on Mombasa Road.

Other routes with train services include Embakasi, Ruiru, Kahawa and Kikuyu.

EASE CONGESTION

The proposed mass commuter trains are part of the wider Nairobi Metropolitan Mass Rapid Transport System (MRTS) that aims to integrate different transport models to ease congestion, including heavy rail, light rail and a bus rapid transit.

The bus rapid transit will involve construction of dedicated lanes on the roads for well-organised, large-capacity buses aimed at improving public commuter service and easing congestion.

The special bus routes will run alongside the normal highways except within the CBD where they will be elevated through construction of double-decker roads.

Kenya Railways has been looking to expand its ‘park and ride’ concept that was implemented in its stations at Syokimau and Imara Daima.

It involves car owners leaving their vehicles at the stations parking area at a lower parking fee (about Sh100) and taking the train to the city.