Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta said on Monday the Chinese-built Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), that stretches 485 km from the coastal city of Mombasa to the Rift Valley town of Naivasha will lead to the growth of cities in Kenya and open new markets across the Horn of Africa.
Addressing Kenyans during the celebrations to mark 57 years since the country gained self-rule from colonialists, Kenyatta said critics of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), just like those who criticized the old meter-gauge railway built-in 1901, will be proven wrong.
“Turning to railways now, this is where my biggest critiques reside. But that’s ok, they are not alone, they are in fellowship with the colonizers who called our railway the Lunatic Express,” said Kenyatta, in reference to the nickname given to the old railway by critics.
“But those who called it the railway to nowhere did not realize that they were describing Nairobi. Nairobi was a nowhere, when the railway was being constructed,” said the president in reference to the capital city whose growth is partly attributed to being the headquarters of the Kenya-Uganda railway.
“Nairobi and most of our country were created by the railway,” he said.
Kenyatta said that is why he had started the process of linking the old railway line to the SGR in order to open more markets within the country and across the borders.
The first phase of this linking is already underway from the capital city to the northern town of Nanyuki, 240 kilometers, which passes through the agriculture rich central Kenya region.
The second phase, which the president said is underway will link the SGR from the town of Naivasha to the shared border town within Uganda known as Malaba, a distance of 350 kilometers.
This will not only open up another agriculture-rich region of the central Rift Valley, the western region and lakeside city of Kisumu but also create efficiency in transporting goods from the port of Mombasa to the landlocked countries of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
The president said the rehabilitation of the old railway lines and linking with the SGR will create a seamless new functional railway infrastructure that is part of a bigger development strategy to link the hinterlands with the Lamu Port and the Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor.
“When this happens then Kenyans can expect new markets to emerge along the railway line, and the cities to blossom, in response,” said Kenyatta.