In a move likely to cause uproar among local transporters and rekindle tension among the East Africa member states, the government wants to cap at 28 tonnes the weight of cargo transported on roads.
Under the new policy, those seeking to carry higher weight will be required to use the railway.
Transport permanent secretary Cyrus Njiru said the government was determined to offload much of the cargo from roads to reduce the damage that was costing huge sums of money in repairs.
“We are making the shift from road to railway and those trucks that carry more than 28 tonnes will, in a matter of weeks, be required to use the railway. We cannot continue destroying our roads,” the PS said after a transport stakeholders meeting at the Panafric hotel in Nairobi on Tuesday.
Kenya is already facing opposition in the East Africa Community for its push to standardise road transport tonnage to 48 tonnes while other countries are pushing for 56 tonnes.
Upgrade of the system
Mr Njiru said rehabilitation of the railway line was ongoing and will cover 70 kilometres that involves replacing worn out rails among other repairs. He said the Rift Valley Railways, through its investment in the upgrade of the system, would also reduce the time taken to ferry cargo by minimising disruptions.
“The railway currently carries 4 per cent of the cargo and the rest is transported through the road. By December, we expect the cargo to double and by June next year 35 per cent of the cargo will be transported by railway system. This will be a big relief to the roads, which is expected to reduce damage and the cost of repair,” he said.
Mr Njiru said construction of the new standard gauge railway system, a joint project with Uganda, is expected to start at the end of the year as the design has been completed.
The port of Mombasa has often faced problems of moving cargo due to inefficient railway system, with most of the goods taken by road.
Apart from goods destined for the country, the road and railway system serves Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, parts of Democratic Republic of Congo and southern Sudan.
The volume of cargo has been growing as the regional economies expand putting pressure on the port and roads.