The Kenyan government is implementing several integrated transport network projects in Nairobi to curb the huge losses Kenyans face as a result of traffic congestion.
The plans, unveiled by President Uhuru Kenyatta are expected to address the various transport challenges in the urban areas.
Data from the government shows that the estimated value of time lost to travel in Nairobi, as an example, is between Ksh 80 million ($732,459) and 400 million ($3.662 million) per month, with congestion costing the country about Ksh 50 million ($457,786) daily.
“Needless to say, this loss in productivity has impacted adversely the growth of our economy,” President Kenyatta said.
The new projects have already been commissioned by President Kenyatta under the new look Nairobi Central Railway Station. The head of state also unveiled commuter rail service across 10 stations in the Nairobi Metropolitan region that will be served by modern trains, referred to as Diesel Multiple Units (DMUs).
The Nairobi Central Railway Station as well as the 10 stations were refurbished under the modernization program of the Nairobi Commuter Rail Service. According to the president, the stations on the new scheduled commuter rail service will provide enhanced transport in the high-density residential areas of Ruiru, Mwiki, Embakasi Village, Athi River, Kikuyu, Kahawa, Githurai, Dandora, Pipeline, and Donholm.
“These stations will also soon be served by 11 DMUs, of which five are being commissioned today,” President Kenyatta said.
The new commuter rail network, which will have day-long hourly train service to and from the 10 stations, will also be integrated with a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system that will connect the Nairobi Central Station with existing matatu and commuter bus termini.
The President said the Government has so far spent Kshs 6.6 billion ($60.411 million) in upgrading the commuter rail stations within the Nairobi Metropolitan region, including the access roads as well as the integrated and modern ticketing system that accommodates offsite booking.
“But we are comforted by the fact that these investments have already yielded great fruits. During the construction of these 10 commuter rail stations, we had an average of 50 workers per day engaged, culminating in over 180,000 direct jobs created and over 700,000 indirect jobs,” the President said.
President Kenyatta also pointed out that the maintenance and upkeep of the stations was and will continue to be undertaken by the Kazi Mtaani youth.
He disclosed that in the next one year the scheduled commuter rail service will be extended to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, allowing air travellers an alternative mode of transport to and from the airport without suffering the frustration of being caught up in the Mombasa Road traffic jam.
“While this extension is being constructed, high capacity buses will be stationed at Embakasi Village Station to provide direct transport services to and from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport,” he said.
The President said by investing in an integrated transport network in cities and growing urban areas, the Government is giving citizens affordable and accessible pathways to conduct their business and social activities.
“We are also creating additional pathways for employment and economic development.
“In addition, since the completion of these projects, we have seen the revival of townships that had endured decades of reduced economic activity,” President Kenyatta said.
He noted that the current over-reliance on road transport has had negative impact on the environment, saying improving urban transport and mobility in Kenyan cities has economic as well as environmental conservation benefits.
“Therefore, by diversifying our urban transport solutions and giving commuters the option of faster and cheaper travel by rail, we will reduce the number of motor vehicle trips; and thereby save Kenyans not only time and money but also enhance air quality in our Kenyan urban areas,” President Kenyatta said.
Transport CS James Macharia said the launch of the Diesel Multiple Units is a major milestone in urban transport in the country and thanked President Kenyatta for his leadership that has facilitated the transformation of the transport sector.