The refurbished Nakuru-Kisumu railway line is set to roar back to life in November, after a facelift by the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) and the National Youth Service (NYS).
The line is among the many projects that will benefit the greater Nyanza region, expected to spur economic growth by linking it to Nakuru and Nairobi through seamless transport.
In August 2020, the government began the rehabilitation of the old railway line from Nakuru to Kisumu which has remained neglected for nearly 25 years.
KDF was mandated with the rehabilitation process in partnership with the Kenya railway corporation. NYS got the assignment to clear the bushes along the railway line.
For the last few months, works in geometry and drainage correction, track renewal, ballasting, bridge and viaduct repairs, culverts construction and rehabilitation of the old station buildings have been ongoing.
KDF, which was contracted to rehabilitate the 217-kilometer railway at Ksh3.7 billion, has already handed over the line to Kenya Railways Corporation.
The century-old line has 18 stations, serving several towns, but they have remained unused since 2008.
The corporation is in the process of renovating the 18 stations, some of which were completely vandalized, to ensure smooth operations once services resume.
The residents of Kibos, Koru, Miwani, Fort Tenan and Muhoroni shopping centers are set to reap big from the revamped line since it cuts through the centres.
According to the Kenya Railways Managing Director Philip Mainga, revamping of the metre-gauge railway, which had been neglected for over two decades, followed a presidential directive aimed at stimulating the economy along the rail route.
“The stations are going to be commercial hubs for our customers and within a month, all the stations will be working. However, passenger trains will only be introduced by the end of the year,” said Mainga in March.
The main mode of transport from Kisumu (and Nyanza in general) to Nairobi and back has been road, but the line is expected to reduce overdependence of road transport, reducing road carnage.
This will also reduce by a large percentage the millions of shillings used to repair roads damaged by trucks ferrying cargo from Mombasa to the Busia border.
The old railway line is also expected to revive trade ties between Kenya and other regional countries through the revamped Kisumu Port. Without the railway line, the Ksh3 billion Kisumu Port would have been at risk of remaining a white elephant project.
Port of Kisumu remains one of the key priority projects that would make the Trans-African Highway a practical route from Lagos to Mombasa, Mombasa to Kisumu, Kisumu to Port Bell, Port Bell to Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), DRC to the Central African Republic, and then to Cameroon and back to Lagos.
The railway line will offer both cargo and passenger travel services and will support the newly constructed Kisumu port.
The Nakuru-Kisumu railway line will be connected to the newly rehabilitated Kisumu Port, enabling the ferrying of cargo and passengers to Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the DRC via Lake Victoria.
The project is also expected to reduce by a large percentage the millions of shillings used to repair roads damaged by trucks ferrying cargo from Mombasa to the Busia border.
Transportation of cargo from the port of Mombasa to Kisumu will also be greatly improved since it can be transported directly without having to offload it anywhere.
Other towns set to benefit from the line include Jinja, Mwanza and Bukoba through cross-border commercial activities.
The collapse of transport on the Metre Gauge Railway on the Nairobi-Kisumu line for the past two decades was a big blow to many counties. The most affected were those whose economies majorly depend on agriculture and were trading in produce that is highly perishable, bulky or with slim profit margins necessitating cheap mode of transport.
The rehabilitation of the Railway will boost tourism in the Nyanza Region and surrounding regions thanks to the availability of a hassle-free mode of transporting visitors to scenic attractions that dot Kenya’s expansive Rift Valley region.
The rehabilitation of the Nakuru-Kisumu railway is also expected to boost Agriculture production in the lakeside region and the Rift Valley.