Dawn of a new era as commuter train service becomes a reality in Nairobi
Posted by Administrator on April 5, 2012
Establishment of a mobile taxi service that operates with no parking bays and the replacement of the 14-seater matatus with high capacity public service buses are only the latest in a series of reform measures that the government intends to take as part of the grand plan to ease traffic in Nairobi.
Yet it is the less talked about Nairobi commuter train service that is shaping up to be the game-changer for policy makers grappling with the city’s congestion problem.
Commission by June
The Sh16 billion ($200 million) project is envisioned to interlink all the key sections of the city with a railway network that converges at Nairobi’s central business district (CBD), eliminating the need for traffic-flow choking vehicles.
“Apart from few remaining ICT facilities, we have completed the Syokimau station as our phase one of the Nairobi metro-train service,” says Alfred Matheka, general manager in charge of finance at Kenya Railways Corporation (KR). President Kibaki is expected to commission the Syokimau railway station by June, making it the first of 10 similar hubs that KR plans to build in partnership with private investors.
The CBD-Syokimau line will eventually extend to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA). Mr. Matheka says KR had arranged with providers of public transport to start temporary shuttle services between Syokimau and JKIA until a new 6 kilometre track is built to link the section.
“This modernisation project is not just about network and vessels but also about facilities and level of service such as presidential coaches and e-ticketing,” Mr Matheka told Business Daily.
If the Nairobi commuter trains service—which KR is implementing with the technical advice of InfraCo Group—is followed to the letter, then city public transport system is set for radical transformation in coming months.
Apart from the Syokimau Station, the master plan envisages three other new railway stations in Jogoo Road’s Makadara estate, Mombasa Road’s Imara Daima and Nairobi’s Moi Avenue.
All these stations will have bus and car parks, officials said.
On the country’s corridors of power, the plan to roll out commuter train services lies within national integrated transport policy which seeks to instill sanity in the public transport sector.
According to the policy contained in a sessional paper that is currently in Parliament, trains will become a major means of transport with most of city roads being changed to one-way lanes.
Among its other highlights, the national policy will see all the serving matatu drivers and touts being taken through culture change training as government rolls out an integrated information system to monitor their behaviour on roads.
Government officials interviewed said Nairobi Commuter train service represented a fresh layer in their long search for permanent solution to current congestion problem.
“It’s going to make it easier for us to actualise our plan of making most city roads single lanes and extending the CBD to peripheral places such as Westlands and Adams Arcade,” says Transport PS Cyrus Njiru.
Data from Planning Ministry indicates that the economy loses at least Sh50 million daily to Nairobi’s traffic Jam.
This figure –which is derived mainly from lost man-hours – makes Nairobi one of the most costly cities in the world, says Michael Mwai, IBM’s general manager for the region.
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