by Ronald Njoroge
NAIROBI, March 17 (Xinhua) -- Work on the China-funded Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) is almost finished as a Kenyan official said the construction was "98 percent completed."
Project Coordinator of the SGR Project Johnson Matu told Xinhua on Friday that the remaining 2 percent revolves around auxiliary works like drainage, fencing as well as completion of the train stations along the route.
"So far the work is substantially complete, so we expect the train to begin trial operations in June," Matu said.
Kenya has already received some of the locomotives that will run on the 480-km SGR.
Construction of the railway began in January 2015 and is set to be completed in June. The construction was initially supposed to take 48 months.
"The Chinese contractors have deployed a lot of innovations that have reduced the construction time," Matu said.
According to the railway official, the construction was divided into sections that made the exercise manageable.
"Each team had a testing laboratory as well as adequate resources that enabled the construction to be completed ahead of schedule," he said.
There are currently 18 quality testing laboratories along the route to ensure that materials are tested before being used in the construction process.
Matu added that high-quality standards have been maintained despite the railway being completed ahead of schedule.
"The railway has achieved Chinese class-one standard which is recognized globally," he said.
The SGR railway, which will replace the existing line, will have a capacity to move 22 million tonnes of cargo annually.
The mega infrastructure project is also expected to have enormous impact on the economy once it is operational.
"We expect transportation cost especially for goods traveling from Nairobi to Mombasa and vice versa to reduce drastically so that products from Kenyan industries will become regionally and globally competitive," Matu said.
During the implementation of phase one of the SGR project, over 25,000 locals secured jobs as technicians and supervisors.
"The towns where the railway passes will become economic centers that will also provide job and wealth creation for many people," Matu added.
He also noted that the project has fostered technology transfer that has benefited young Kenyans immensely.
"The Chinese engineers have trained their Kenyan counterparts on railways construction and maintenance," said Matu.