The plan to make full use of the railroad to move cargo from the port creates a storm

Cargo being unloaded from SGR train to Meter Gauge Railway freight train at Inland Container Depot in Mai Mahiu Naivasha for onward transport to Malaba. [Antony Gitonga, Standard]

Coastal towns along the Northern Corridor are expected to be hit by another wave of economic hardship once Kenya Railways begins hauling cargo directly from Mombasa to Malaba.

But it would be reversed in the Rift Valley, particularly in Nakuru, where area governor Lee Kinyanjui said it could hasten an economic boom in the new city.

“We understand that the clearance and transfer operations will be carried out around Longonot and Mai Mahiu, which are now one of the fastest growing cities in the country,” he said.

On Monday, Kenya Railways chief executive Phillip Maingi said the move would cut the time it takes to move cargo from Mombasa to Malaba by truck from the current four days to 28 hours.

“Not only will this reduce traffic on the roads, but it will also reduce the costs that companies and individuals incur in transporting cargo,” he said during the launch of the Naivasha trial.

Cargo interveners in Mombasa yesterday said the new program would deal a blow to the road transport sector, which depends on last-mile business to stay afloat.

The Kenya Ships Agents Association also said that for the policy to work and avoid additional costs for importers, KR must guarantee seamless connectivity of transport from the SGR to the Naivasha meter gauge railway.

KSAA Chief Executive Officer Juma Tellah said a thorough bill of lading (TBL) system should also be put in place to ensure cargo security.

“We opposed it last year because the systems weren’t in place. If implemented haphazardly, it could cause delays that would result in demurrage,” he said.

Under the new arrangement, cargo picked up at the Port of Mombasa will be delivered by standard gauge rail to the Inland Container Depot at Mai Mahiu. Once arrived at the ICD, it will be transferred to the newly built Mai Mahiu-Longonot railway line for onward transport to Malaba via the meter gauge railway line. “In Uganda, there were concerns about the high tariffs that the country charges, but we checked that by around 50 percent,” Maingi said.

But Samson Makhoha, chairman of the truck drivers’ association, said there were fears of massive job losses.

“It will mean job losses for dozens of drivers, mechanics and even insurance companies that insure these cargo and vehicles,” he said, adding, “Cities along the Mombasa-Nairobi-Malaba highway that were dependent on truck drivers , will suffer an agonizing death. However, Naivasha Road Safety Chairman James Kabono noted that 80 percent of accidents and traffic incidents along the Mai Mahiu-Limuru road were caused by the trailers.

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