Kenya loses almost 1 billion dollars per year in productivity to traffic snarl ups according to Nairobi Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (NMATA). Globally, Nairobi has been ranked 4th in terms of traffic chock in the city.
Factors such as the lack of a well-defined public transport system have led to many Kenyans opting to use personal means of transport to run basic errands that otherwise could have been efficiently done using public means.
On average, it takes approximately 57-60 minutes to get to the city according to NMATA, however, it takes 30-40 minutes to get to CBD by train and the cost of travel reduces by half, depending on the stopovers and distance covered, which brings about the question as to whether an elaborate railway transport system could be the long-awaited answer to the traffic menace in Nairobi.
The National government through CS James Macharia in the year 2019 set aside KSH 200 billion to reduce the traffic in Nairobi by half. Some of these funds were to be allocated not only to the rehabilitation of the old railway system but also the building of new railway tracks.
With the reduction of traveling hours to and fro Mombasa brought about by the SGR, one cannot help but think of the productivity hence the financial impact that Kenya could enjoy if the current railway system was to be revamped.
The government has completed various phases of the construction of SGR which gives Kenyans the confidence that they have enough resources to rehabilitate the old railway network in the various parts of the country.
Some of the old railway systems that could help restore Nairobi’s sanity include;
- Nairobi-Nanyuki railway which covers areas such as Nanyuki, Nyeri, Thika, Juja, Githurai, Kahawa, Ruiru, Dandora, Umoja.
- Nairobi-Kibera covering Nyahururu, Gilgil, Limuru, Kikuyu, Suswa, Dagoretti.
- Nairobi-Eldoret covering Eldoret, Nakuru, Kariandusi, Sossian, Rongai.
- Nairobi-Mombasa which covers Mombasa, Konza, Athi River, Embakasi, Makadara.
An efficient railway system will not only encourage Kenyans to leave their personals vehicles at home, but will also reduce the number of PSVs in the city which translates to efficiency in both energy and finance, over and above making it easier for traders to transport their wares to various destinations across the country. This could lead to reduced cost of commodities and therefore cut down the cost of living making it possible for more Kenyans to save and invest.
For a Kenyan living in Athi River, but working in the CBD, it costs them just under Kshs. 300 per day in transport and close to two hours, for the early birds, otherwise it could take you up to 3 hours.
With the rehabilitation of the railway line, this could take 40 minutes to get to town and the costs reduced by half, this means that less chunk of employees’ salaries is spent on commuting to and from work, statistically, this means that in a single day, one can save close to Kshs. 150, Kshs. 750 per week and Kshs. 39,000 per year.
This money could be channeled to saving or investments. Besides, it contributes to employee psychological wellness which improves productivity as they can get to work on time and get home on time, therefore, get enough rest.
This could also be of great benefit to the government of Kenya and its citizens in general since there will be a tremendous reduction in environmental pollution, as there will be;
- Reduced noise pollution
- Improved road safety as there are no vehicles over speeding to beat the rush hours,
- Opening up of rural areas to development and
- Decongestion of urban areas as supported by the research by African Development Bank (AfDB) on Rail Infrastructure in Africa
The Kenya railways estimates 4,000 passengers increase in current capacity to 15,000 passengers a day per trip. It also targets to serve up to 230,000 passengers a day through the Nairobi commuter rail network.
With the rehabilitation of the 240km Nairobi-Nanyuki old meter-gauge railway started and scheduled to be operational by end of June 2020, Kenyans can only hope that the government puts into consideration the other old railway networks whose rehabilitation would help in reducing traffic in the City.
Author: Doreen Wairimu
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