The Mombasa-Nairobi section of the standard gauge railway will be complete in June next year, President Uhuru Kenyatta was told on Saturday.
Kenya Railways managing director Atanas Maina said 82 per cent of the project, being undertaken by China Road and Bridge Corporation, was completed.
He was speaking when the President inspected the site office at Sultan Hamud town in Kajiado County.
Railway officials showed him computer generated impressions of the project in its current state and what is expected on completion.
Afterwards President Kenyatta watched for 38 minutes as workers laid 60 metres of track and was later shown around the special dual-operator track laying locomotive.
He was accompanied by Internal Security Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery, Industrialisation CS Adan Mohammed, Finance CS Henry Rotich, Mining CS Dan Kazungu and Attorney-General Githu Muigai.
In a short speech during a luncheon, the President said the modern railway will boost the economy.
“It will contribute to a significant drop in the cost of consumer goods as it will lower the cost of transporting cargo from the port of Mombasa,” he said.
The SGR project is the largest undertaken by the government under the Jubilee administration.
The first phase of the Vision 2030 flagship project linking Mombasa and Nairobi will cost Sh327 billion.
Kenya Railways officials say the 427 kilometre stretch will be complete in June next year.
On the sidelines of the President’s tour, Mr Maina told the Sunday Nation that the government had ordered 56 trains to run on the modern track.
The trains, both cargo and passenger, will run on diesel but can be upgraded to run on electricity in future, he said.
“Each passenger train will have a capacity of 1,096 people with a speed of 80 kilometres per hour.”
The government has awarded the Chinese company a tender to extend the railway line from Nairobi to Naivasha at a cost of Sh153 billion.
“We are confident that we shall complete this railway line on schedule,” said President Kenyatta.
His visit came on the backdrop of growing complaints for delayed compensation by communities living where the rail line passes.
In some cases, residents complained that the government was yet to compensate them for their land, and in others residents want to be paid for damaged houses and roads.
In response, the President urged the communities not to stymie the completion of the project by making unrealistic demands.
He said the government planned to create industrial zones along the entire railway corridor which would create jobs for thousands of locals.
“The railway itself is useless without all the auxiliaries coming with it,” he said.
CRBC’s parent company, China Communications Construction Company, will operate the railway on a five-year contract.