The Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Housing, Urban Development and Public Works (MoTIHUD&PW), Mr. James Macharia, recently met with the French Ambassador to Kenya, Mrs. Aline Kuster-Menager, with a clear-cut topic to be addressed; the Rehabilitation, Extension and Operation of the Commuter Rail line from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) to the Nairobi Central Railway Station (NCRS).
During his speech, the CS reaffirmed the government’s commitment to ensuring the development of a sustainable transport infrastructure that is supportive to the business environment. “Infrastructure is top on the Kenyan government’s priorities. Just today morning, we had a cabinet meeting and the commuter rail was top on the list of items for discussion. In addition to commuter rail, we have a bigger picture of an integrated transport system that extends beyond railway to include the bus rapid transport system,” he said.
Even as govt. continues to improve the road infrastructure, the CS said, the congestion problem in Nairobi has escalated to critical levels in the last few years. From 138,000 CBD-bound vehicles in 2015, the number has now risen to 186,000 in a three year span thus compounding the problem. “Providing an efficient transport system to decongest urban areas is essential even as govt. efforts to achieve the housing goals set in the Big Four (4) Agenda are implemented. In order to tackle the congestion challenge effectively, a mass rapid transport system ensures smooth movement of large numbers of commuters without further congesting roads. It is for these reasons that the government set up the Nairobi Metropolitan Transport Authority (NaMATA) mandated to oversee the planning, implementation and operations of an organized high capacity public transport system,” said the CS.
Particularly on the planned JKIA – CBD railway line, the CS expressed his high regard for the prospects the line holds. “The JKIA – CBD line is the jewel in the crown in the revitalization of the commuter rail network. As a result, it is the first line proposed for full development under the commuter rail masterplan. As you are aware, Kenya, through Kenya Airways, now has direct flights to New York. While these flights continue to strengthen JKIA, the commuter line being launched today will enable international passengers get easy access to the CBD without suffering the frustrations currently being experienced due to traffic jams on our roads,” he said. Mr. Macharia also informed delegates that in terms of financing, it is proposed that the project can run on a Public Private Partnership (PPP) model. He further went on to express gratitude to the French Government for their assistance. “The support of the French Government as the partnering companies who are providing 1B Euros, is most welcome and appreciated. Thank you,” he said.
In her speech, Amb. Aline Kuster-Menager expressed the French Government’s appreciation for Kenya’s warm relations and partnership. She also affirmed their commitment to delivering the rail rehabilitation project to Kenya with the highest standards required. “The relationship between France and Kenya is already bearing fruit and this project is just the start. Indeed, this project will enhance opportunities for affordable housing and attract investments thus increasing Kenya’s productivity and reinforcing its position as an economic hub in East Africa. Also, by providing an alternative to cars which pollute the environment, it will contribute towards improved air quality,” said the Ambassador.
In 2017, French President, H.E. Emmanuel Macron, during a State Visit to Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, highlighted Sustainable Urban Cities and Sustainable Urban Development as the key topics for the Africa – France summit set to be held in 2020 in France. “Nairobi can be the perfect showcase for this summit and it is no coincidence that the first Sustainable Urban Development conference in EA took place herein 9 – 10 July, 2018. This project is therefore at the forefront of the French Government’s priorities in terms of cooperation of African countries and it will be at the center of the planned State visit by President Macron in March (2019),” said Ms. Kuster-Menager. For this reason, the French Government recently approved a grant to Kenya Railways Corporation to perform the implementation study of the project. The consortium of French companies who will conduct the survey gathers some of the finest experts France has to offer and will cover all the scopes of the project from Engineering studies by EGIS whose Nairobi office employs about 100 highly qualified Kenyan Engineers and technicians.
In conclusion, the Ambassador painted a long-term picture of the foundation upon which the Kenya – France partnership is based. “The commitment of the French Government will not stop at the study that we conduct today but will go all the way to commission and operate the line to deliver the highest standards to Nairobi commuters and international travellers who will see this infrastructure as the gateway to Kenya after landing at the JKIA.”
With such high level meetings and commitments being made regarding Nairobi’s commuter railway, Nairobi Commuters are set to enjoy improved services in the near future.