Modern Chinese-built railway transforms lives in Kenya

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Passengers are seen at the Nairobi station of the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) in Nairobi, capital of Kenya, on November 17, 2021.Photo:Xinhua

Concilia Owire grew up in a rural hamlet in western Kenya at a time when young girls had to overcome harmful cultural beliefs, patriarchy and financial constraints in their quest to fulfill their career dreams.

The electrical engineering major in her late twenties gained celebrity status in her hometown and beyond when in 2017, she joined the growing ranks of female locomotive drivers on the new Mombasa- standard gauge railway. Nairobi (SGR) built in China.

Prior to becoming a locomotive driver, Owire underwent rigorous training locally and in China to prepare her for the daunting task of commuting a modern rail service whose launch set the pace for Kenya’s gradual transformation.

Chinese and Kenyan drivers prepare to launch the train at Nairobi Station of the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) in Nairobi, capital of Kenya, November 17, 2021.Photo:Xinhua

Chinese and Kenyan drivers prepare to launch the train at Nairobi Station of the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) in Nairobi, capital of Kenya, November 17, 2021.Photo:Xinhua

The thoughtful but cheerful young woman said being a part of the pioneer group of female locomotive drivers was an honor she cherished.

“I can say that I am very happy and honored to be part of the first group of female locomotive drivers in Kenya and I have been able to learn so much from the company and from my Chinese teachers,” said Owire.

In 2017, she attended a 50-day training course in China to learn about railway operation and maintenance, paving the way for her recruitment into the modern rail service where meritocracy is highly regarded.

Owire’s skill in commuting locomotives along the 480-kilometer SGR Mombasa-Nairobi corridor has earned her accolades in the workplace as well as inspiring young girls.

Passengers are seen on the train to Mombasa at Nairobi Station of the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) in Nairobi, capital of Kenya, November 22, 2021.Photo:Xinhua

Passengers are seen on the train to Mombasa at Nairobi Station of the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) in Nairobi, capital of Kenya, November 22, 2021.Photo:Xinhua

Lately his career path has been on an upward trajectory through focus, dedication and passion and his duties have broadened to include training future Kenyan locomotive drivers and managing managerial tasks.

Owire’s rapid transition from a shy villager to a skilled, urban young woman is a testament to the transformation that SGR has unleashed in Kenya.

The modern China-built railway has been operating safely for more than four years even as it emerges as a key player in the mobility, connectivity and commerce revolution in Africa’s largest economy. ‘East.

“The transport indicators of the RMS and its growing social importance have also won the approval of freight owners and passengers,” said Africa Star Railway Operation Company Limited (AfriStar) which operates the RMS.

A train arrives at Nairobi station of the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) in Nairobi, capital of Kenya, November 17, 2021.Photo:Xinhua

A train arrives at Nairobi station of the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) in Nairobi, capital of Kenya, November 17, 2021.Photo:Xinhua

Statistics from operator SGR indicate that it has carried more than 6.4 million passengers between Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, and the coastal city of Mombasa since its launch in 2017 until October 31, 2021, even as it targets 2 million commuters this year, a record high.

Currently, there are an average of six passenger trains and 17 freight trains running daily along the Mombasa-Nairobi corridor, which has reduced travel time while ensuring the safety of commuters and bulk cargo.

The operator said that in 2021 alone, the freight train had carried 382,000 TEUs as of Oct. 31, adding that improving cargo, passenger safety and protecting pristine habitat along the corridor was the hallmark. determinant of SGR’s corporate culture.

Kenyans from all walks of life who have used the Mombasa-Nairobi commuter train service which launched in 2017 have spoken enthusiastically about how it has transformed their lives in so many ways.

George Agutu, a middle-aged civil servant who works in Mombasa, said modern rail service guaranteed him a smooth trip to Nairobi every weekend for a reunion with his family.

“I am now taking the Standard Gauge Railway overnight train to Nairobi on Friday evening to be with my family and return to work on Sunday,” Agutu said.

He said the modern commuter train was a popular choice for government officials, entrepreneurs and tourists crisscrossing the Mombasa-Nairobi route amid cheaper fare, increased safety and punctuality. .

Eliud Muraya, a 44-year-old entrepreneur based in Nairobi, said that the SGR freight service delivers its goods imported from abroad at breakneck speed in addition to affordable costs and improved safety compared to trucks.

The father-of-two said it takes 30 days to transport a cargo from the port of Mombasa to his premises amid customs clearance obstacles, but thanks to the SGR freight service, it now takes less than a week for it is delivered.

Erastus Mwencha, former vice-chair of the African Union Commission, noted that the SGR has reduced congestion in the port of Mombasa for the benefit of local and foreign investors.

He noted that a large number of trucks have been taken off Kenyan highways thanks to modern rail service, amid the ecological benefits for the country.


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