Kenya Railways (KR) has defended its decision to import 11 old Spanish trains, saying they’re much cheaper and France, a first world country, has bought similar ones.
Through a statement in the local dailies, KR rubbished claims there are vested interests in the deal between the Ministry of Transport and Spain which gave Serveis Ferroviaris de Mallorca a contract to facilitate the purchase of the trains.
“Before the contract for the acquisition of the 11 refurbished DMUs (diesel multiple units) is signed, every effort will be made to ensure there are no illegalities and that the interests of Kenyans are safeguarded. The government is committed to providing an efficient, safe and reliable commuter rail service,” KR said.
The ageing trains, five coaches and spare parts will cost taxpayers Sh1.15 billion. The parastatal says each train has a lifespan of 23-25 years.
On Sunday, Nation revealed that Kenya was planning to buy the used trains — some of them as old as 25 years — in a Sh10 billion plan for a commuter train service and high capacity buses in Nairobi.
KR now says the trains have a lifespan of 23-25 years and their purchase will necessitate the building of nine new stations, namely: Kenyatta University, Umoja, Kibera, Thogoto, Mbagathi Way, Kitengela, Dagoretti and Strathmore University.
In the master plan to decongest the city, KR says the commuter railway network is up for rehabilitation with new lines mentioned above set to be added onto the 150km stretch of rail.
If acquired, the new trains will be deployed to Nairobi Central Station, Syokimau, Embakasi Village, Thika, Kikuyu and Kitengela.
Several attempts to decongest the city failed after the government experimented with banning public service vehicles from Nairobi’s city centre. The city also announced plan to introduce car-free days, a plan that was criticised as ill-thought-out given the county’s pedestrian-unfriendly infrastructure.
KR also insist that revamping of the rail sector is set to increase the daily number of passengers from 13,000 daily to 132,000 commuters.
The decision to import the old train was reached after Cabinet meeting on December 5 last year in which Treasury mandarin Henry Rotich was instructed to allocate Sh10billion for the project.
The rushed plan raised suspicions on just how they are going to operate given findings of a report that questions their low capacity, weaker engines and in Nairobi’s single-track railway system.
While assuring the public of the efficiency of the trains which are expected in the country from June, KR says the original manufacturer in Spain will recondition them.