Kenya has launched its first major new railway line travelling from the capital Nairobi to the port city of Mombasa.
The railway is the country’s biggest infrastructure project since its independence in 1963. The Chinese-funded railway cost £2.5 billion and was built by the Chinese Communications Construction Consortium, which have already funded a number of large construction projects in Africa.
The company will run the system for the next 10 years, handing it over to Kenyan operators once local staff is fully trained.
The railway took three and a half years to build using Chinese track laying technology. The line stretches 472km (293 miles) but there is a 25 year plan for it to link landlocked countries South Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia and eastern DR Congo to the Indian Ocean.
The journey from Mombasa to Nairobi previously took nine hours by bus or twelve hours using the previous railway. It now takes four and a half hours to get from Mombasa to Nairobi, passing through some of Kenya’s national parks.
Nairobi is the main station and passenger terminal, it will also be the train maintenance deport for vehicles, coaches and wagons. Travellers will pay 900 Kenyan Shillings for economy and 3,000 Kenyan Shillings for business class.
The railway has been criticised for adding to the national debt which currently stands at 4 Trillion Kenyan Shillings. The project funded by the Chinese Loans company is estimated to have cost over 1 Trillion Kenyan Shillings, a quarter of the total national debt.