The standard gauge railway could miss completion deadlines after it emerged that acquiring land is taking too long to complete.
China Road and Bridge Corporation, which was awarded the Sh327 billion tender, says that out of the required 472 kilometres needed for the project, only 200 kilometres have been availed.
Company manager for external relations, Julius Li, on Friday said the procedures of acquiring land and relocating amenities such as power lines was a major challenge that may affect its timelines in the long run.
“While we understand the procedures involved in land acquisitions in Kenya, the prolonged process may in some cases delay our progress.
“Unlike road construction where you can skip one point and continue tarmacking other areas, we need every meter when we finally start laying the railway tracks.
“We can only hope that the Ministry of Lands and Kenya Railways will expedite the process to allow us meet the completion deadlines,” Mr Li said.
He was speaking after hosting a delegation of senior diplomatic officials from the East African region on a tour at a section of the new railway project in Nairobi’s Syokimau office.
However, he said, the government had promised to sort out all land related issues by next month.
The company tasked with the delivery of the Vision 2030 flagship project is also concerned that going by the experiences of land acquisition in the rural areas, there is likelihood of more challenges in Nairobi and Mombasa when construction reaches these cities.
In December 2014, the government began compensating land owners affected by the railway project in Mariakani, Taita Taveta, Makueni and Machakos.
The process is yet to be completed following allegations that some people presented inaccurate bank details for payment.
Started officially on January 1, 2015, the project is meant to be completed in five years’ time.
It is expected to cut the cost of transport from Mombasa to Nairobi by 40 per cent through its huge hauling capacity using cargo trains that would take as short as four hours between the two cities.
The project has so far employed close to 8,000 locals in the eight counties where work is ongoing. About 30,000 employment opportunities are expected when the construction work goes full scale.
The new railway was financed 90 per cent by Chinese Exim Bank with the Kenyan government providing the 10 per cent in a deal signed between the two governments in 2013.
This year, the company is expected to complete half of civil works in the project as well as begin procurement for locomotives.
2016 will involve the crucial laying of tracks for the 120km/h passenger trains and the 80km/h cargo trains.
The new railway line has also reserved capabilities of being electrified in future.