Kenya Railways will now direct all-cargo freights from Mombasa to the Naivasha Inland Container Depot (NICD) for onward transportation to neighbouring countries, Kenya Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia has said.
Macharia said this will boost the movement of goods in the region which has been hard hit by the lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The inaugural freight via the Standard Gauge railway arrived in Mombasa and was received by Macharia accompanied by top officials from the Kenya Ports Authority and the Kenya Railways Corporation.
Most of the cargo is destined to Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Burundi and parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Uganda and Rwanda have imposed tough restrictive measures on Kenyan truck drivers with strict regulations that Kenya and Tanzanian drivers have rejected.
The Naivasha ICD, which had been beset by construction delays has now been officially completed.
According to Kenya Railways Managing Director Phillip Mainga, the Corporation will have two initial daily trains hauling up to 108 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) and a minimum of 70 teus.
The Naivasha ICD has a capacity to hold two million tonnes annually and is intended to reduce congestion at the Nairobi ICD and Mombasa port, cut the number of trucks on the roads and facilitate seamless trans-shipment of goods to neighbouring countries.
“We want to contain the spike in the number of truck drivers testing positive for Covid-19 because there will be fewer trucks originating from Mombasa,” Mainga stated.
Kenya has invested $30 million to rehabilitate the meter-gauge railway line from Nairobi to Nanyuki to spur economic activities in the agricultural-rich central region of the country.
Uganda cargo commands more than 80 per cent of the regional transit traffic through Mombasa port.
Kenyan cross-border truck drivers were from last week required to obtain a certificate from the Ministry of Health confirming they are Covid-19 free after Uganda and Rwanda accused them of being the weak link in their fight against the deadly virus.
Transport CS James Macharia said the Naivasha ICD will increase the rail transport sector’s role in the logistics scene by providing a viable solution to the challenge of limited capacity at the Port of Mombasa and Nairobi Inland Container Depot.
According to the CS, the Naivasha ICD includes a one-stop centre for ease of operations and efficient service delivery.
It houses all the Government agencies involved in the handling of cargo and Revenue Authority officers from partner states of Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania.
Meanwhile, Uganda Railways Cooperation Operations Manager Abobeko Chaki says the increase in operations between the Port of Kisumu and Port Bell in Uganda will improve quality of service delivery and reduce human movements across the two countries in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19.
He said this while receiving 800,000 litres of fuel transported to Port Bell from Kisumu by the MV Uhuru vessel.
“By using railway and water transport system, we will be able to transport up to 17 million litres of fuel at a go and reduce the number of trucks operating between the two countries and hence minimize the risk of spreading the COVID-19,” Chaki said adding that if the two ships are operational between Kisumu and Port Bell, over 500 trucks will be kept off the roads.
BY ODINDO AYIEKO