by Bedah Mengo
NAIROBI, Jan. 12 (Xinhua) -- Huge concrete pillars, the seemingly unending tracks and nicely-built stations of a Chinese-built railway are becoming new tourist attractions in Kenya, known for its sandy beaches and wildlife parks.
Stretching from the Mombasa port to the capital Nairobi, the first phase of the standard gauge railway is yet to be completed but has already attracted throngs to get a glimpse.
"I was going for holiday in Mombasa last December and I could not help but stop in Emali to see the progress of the work. I liked the way the pillars stood in water at the Ndumoto bridge undisturbed with a crane doing some work," said Benson Ndwiga, a Kenyan accountant.
Ndwiga, like many other holiday-makers on their way to the coastal region, took photos of the edifice, part of the 3.8-billion-U.S.-dollar railway, before continuing with the journey.
At the Athi River Super Bridge, dozens of visitors were trying to catch a glimpse of the pillars and railroad.
"We are lucky that we will be seeing the train pass here," said Hillary Machera, a resident of Kitengela on the outskirts of Nairobi.
"When the bridge was being erected sometime in October last year, I spend time there capturing how the cranes were working, carrying the huge slabs and fitting them on the pillars. It was something out of this world," Machera told Xinhua.
The railway is the biggest infrastructure project in Kenya since its independence and will replace a track built 100 years ago during British colonial rule.
"Kenya Railways invites you to make a stop and enjoy the incredible sights of the standard gauge railway as you travel," says a message by the corporation.
It has identified Simba Railway Station, Voi Bridge, Taru Crossover, Athi River Super Bridge and Ndumoto bridges as places worth visiting.
Earlier this week, Kenya received from China the first batch of six locomotives, which will run on the railway line.
The locomotives are expected to attract more interest from Kenyans once testing on the rail begins.
The railway will cut the journey time from Nairobi to Mombasa to 4.5 hours from the current 10 hours.
Tourism stakeholders say the railway will be a major boost to tourism by offering comfortable travel and easy connectivity.
"The railway line will link beach and safari tourism and make the products exciting for local and international tourists," Sam Ikwaye, the Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers's branch official at the Coast, said in a recent interview.
Henry Wandera, a Nairobi-based economics lecturer, said that Kenyans were finding the railway line an attraction as it is the first time many Kenyans witnessed a rail line being constructed.
Wandera said the country's old railway was built when more than half of the current population had not been born, and over three-quarters of them have never used it.
"The new standard gauge railway line offers many a chance to not only see its construction but boarding a train," Wandera said.
The Mombasa-Nairobi railway is expected to begin trial operation in June and to officially open by the beginning of 2018. Enditem