by Joy Nabukewa
MOMBASA, Kenya, May 15 (Xinhua) -- Kenya Railways on Monday received 17 more freight locomotives, six shunting locomotives, 50 flat wagons for containers and four unit cranes for use in the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) operations ahead of the June 1 launch of the Nairobi-Mombasa service.
Speaking during the offloading of the locomotives and wagons in Mombasa, Ministry of Transport Principal Secretary Paul Maringa Mwangi said the government was keen on optimizing the SGR for freight transport destined locally and to the region -- Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Mwangi said the SGR is the backbone of Kenya's multi-modal infrastructure development and thus it will play a key role in spurring economic growth.
"It is expected that freight uptake via SGR will considerably increase rail transport capacity from the port once the operations commence in December," he said.
Mwangi said the locomotives will provide a vital service to the nation and help address the growing congestion on the roads in Kenya, with operations on the line expected to stimulate economic activity especially in the areas traversed by the SGR line.
So far, the country has received 25 freight locomotives out of the 43 on order; the full order of five passenger and eight shunting locomotives; the full order of 40 passenger coaches, as well as 763 wagons out of the 1,620 on order.
Kenya Railways' SGR Project Manager Maxwell Mengich said the railway firm is ready to play its part in growing the country's economy.
"We are working with the relevant agencies to ensure that all the interventions required at the Nairobi Inland Container Depot are ready to handle the freight once we roll out the service," Mengich said.
"We have also put in place sufficient spares and a robust maintenance program to minimize on locomotive failures and achieve best performance in line with global practices," he added.
Operation of freight services is scheduled to begin once the expansion and modernization of the Nairobi Inland Container Depot (ICD) is completed and handling equipment provided and installed. General freight will be offloaded at Nairobi Terminus, whose construction is generally complete.
Kenya Railways will operate the freight trains between Mombasa Port and Nairobi. The freight tariffs are being determined and will be published in time for the commencement of the operations.
The customers are guaranteed high capacity trains with trailing loads of up to 4,000 tonnes, and high-quality freight service with a transit time of 10 hours on average between Mombasa and Nairobi.
According to the Feasibility Study Report, SGR operations would reduce freight transportation costs compared to roads transport costs particularly as the volume offered to SGR increases.
The cost of moving goods across borders has become increasingly important as the EAC market players continue to position their products in the global market.