Kenya Railways Corporation(KRC) has begun the process of taking over the running of trains on the standard gauge railway(SGR) from the Chinese firm Africa Star Railway Operation Company( AfriStar).
The Corporation is already handling the ticketing, security and fuelling operations of the SGR trains with a complete takeover from the Chinese to be completed by May next year.
Kenya Railways Takeover process timelines
“From March 1, 2021 KRC has taken over all staff working on ticketing function,” said Omudho Awitta, KRC Board Chairman.
This takeover of SGR by the Corporation is happening against the background of loud complaints from commuters concerning delays in the arrival and departure of trains within Nairobi’s various routes.
The most affected are the commuter trains plying the Ruiru- Nairobi route through Kahawa West, Githurai, Mwiki, Dandora and Makadara.
KRC has been on a public relations overdrive to apologise for the continued delays on this route, without explaining the cause for the problem.
It is still unclear whether or not scheduled maintenance of the Spanish-built Diesel Multiple Units(DMUs) could have led to a change in the train schedules.
AfriStar, a subsidiary of the Chinese state-owned enterprise China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), has been running all SGR operations.
“We have negotiated with the contractor so that we take over the running of the standard gauge railway. The first phase has started; we have taken over the trains’ security, ticketing, and fueling.
These phases will go on smoothly up to May 2022 when we take overall operations,” said Awitta.
According to Awitta, KRC will be taking over the SGR operations in 5 years instead of the planned 10 year period.
Contract with CRBC
In 2017, KRC contracted Africa Star Railways (Afristar), a China Road and Bridge Corporation subsidiary company, to manage SGR operations and maintenance, with KRC excluded from collecting any sales revenue.
It is still uncertain whether the loss-making KRC has the financial muscle to oversee the SGR from the Chinese.
Financial health of KRC
Kenya Railways Corporation recorded a loss of KSh24.2 Billion in the period ending June 30th, 2020, compared to KSh 8.5 Billion in the previous financial year.
Figures in the Consolidated National Government Investment Report 2020, presented to parliament by Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani, show that Kenya Railways Corporation owed the Kenya Government an outstanding loan amounting to KSh 539.3 Billion.