One of the greatest achievements the Jubilee government will be remembered for many years to come is the inauguration of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) popularly known as “Madaraka Express” on 31 May 2017 by President Uhuru Kenyatta. This is because the multi-billion dollar project that was aimed at bringing transport solution in the Northern Corridor has come with many benefits to Kenyans than expected.
Before its inception, passengers and cargo on transit took approximately ten hours or more to traverse between these two great cities. Many factors such as the poor state of the road, traffic congestion and delays in cargo clearance at the port played a big role in prolonging the number of hours spent on the road. This therefore was a problem that hindered economic growth as these two counties contribute enormously to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country as compared to the other cities.
Previously, traffic congestion menace used to emanate at the coast in Changamwe near Kibarani at the roundabout with trucks entering and leaving the port through Gate 18 causing chaos and confusion. This confusion and chaos could be attributed to the slow clearance of cargo at the port and the scarcity of space within the facility to accommodate many trucks accessing the port. As a result, what emerged were long queues of trucks that escalated to the busy Mombasa-Nairobi road leading to traffic jams. The SGR has helped solve this at a larger extent as it offers Freight Cargo Services that are much faster than the use of trucks. This has helped ease congestion at the roundabout significantly and enhance smooth traffic flow hence reducing waiting time. Besides, many entrepreneurs have embraced the new mode of transport as it is more cost-effective thereby reducing the number of trucks on the road.
Likewise, passengers have opted to use the Standard Gauge railway as opposed to road transport as it has proven to be much faster and safer than the use of road transport. The SGR is twice as fast as compared to the use of buses which take almost ten hours on the road. In addition, road carnage between Mombasa and Nairobi has greatly dropped and this is something to be proud about. More passengers are using the SGR thereby reducing the number of fatal accidents previously witnessed with reckless driving to bit tight deadlines. Sanity is finally being restored back into our roads as the SGR has offered the much sort after transport alternative.
It is also crystal clear that this infrastructure has created thousands of jobs for Kenyans. Many youths have been incorporated into this project thus reducing the huge levels of unemployment that existed. Both skilled and unskilled labour is being provided by Kenyans in the construction, maintenance and running of the SGR. One of the requirements for the Chinese contractor – China Road and Bridge Corporation-that was awarded the contract was to train and later hand over operations to Kenyans upon its successful completion and this has been complied with. Many Kenyans have taken over a significant percentage of the work force at the Miritini and Syokimau terminus respectively.
There is no doubt that this is one of the best investments the government has ever done in recent years as it has helped solve the transportation nightmare between Mombasa and Nairobi that has plagued the country since independence. It was unthought-of that it could take only three hours to arrive at the coast from Nairobi and vice versa in Kenya without the use of air transport which is still only limited to a few wealthy individuals up-to-date. Clearly, air transport is much faster and efficient but it still remains expensive and out of reach for many Kenyans.
The future looks bright for Kenya with the investment of such viable projects. There is no doubt that once the project whose final destination is Uganda comes to completion, Kenya will be the utmost beneficiary as it will open up investment in East and Central Africa with Kenya becoming its business hub since the neighbouring countries like Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Malawi are landlocked. Most of their imports will have to pass through Kenya and this will create revenue for the country.