Mixed reactions as first batch of SGR locomotives is launched

The first batch of the freight locomotives for the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) arrived in the country this week with and launched yesterday for testing.

The locomotives were received  by the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure, Housing, and Urban Development, Mr James Macharia at a ceremony held at Mombasa’s Port Reitz Station, which is the starting point for the SGR’s Mombasa-Nairobi line.

“Thanks to the efforts of the Kenyan railway builders and Government agencies involved in this landmark project, the Mombasa-Nairobi SGR has registered a remarkable construction speed and we expect completion of the entire project soon, and within our contract terms. The delivery of this first batch of freight locomotives is a major milestone on this journey,” said Mr. James Macharia, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development at the mid-morning ceremony.

Mixed reactions

Six locomotives docked at the port, four  of which are freight locomotives of the model DF8B diesel locomotive. This is the main traction

This is the main traction locomotive model of the Chinese railway system, with locomotive power of 3100KW and a maximum speed of 100 km/h.

Some Kenyans expressed their displeasure with the kind of locomotives launched saying that the Jubilee government didi not deliver what it promised.

Those who came into its defense, on the other hand, supported the move applauding the government for creating not only job opportunities but also cheaper and safer modes of transport to Mombasa.

 Operation of the Locomotives

Once the SGR is operational, this locomotive will be the main force serving freight transportation needs on the entire railway.

Also expected are 2 DF7G shunting locomotives with 1550KW power, which together with the freight locomotives, will be used for marshalling and dispatching locomotives and rolling stock within stations.

There will be a total of 56 locomotives manufactured by CRRC Corporation in operation on the Mombasa-Nairobi SGR route. The entire fleet is expected to be in the country by mid-year and will arrive in four batches. The fleet, when complete, will consist of three models: passenger, freight and shunting locomotives.

There will be five DF11 passenger locomotives, 43 DF8B freight locomotives and eight DF7G locomotives. The three are mature, reliable and come with proprietary intellectual property rights, used in large quantities, own a high market share and exhibit excellent performance.

The DF8B heavy-duty diesel locomotive, which just arrived at Mombasa Port is the classic model with an AC-DC transmission Diesel-Electric, high-power engine.

It is widely used for both passenger and freight, and boasts a domestic market share of 60 per cent in China.

Passenger locomotive

The DF11 passenger locomotive, according to government PSCU,  represents the realization of high-speed passenger transportation in China. It is the highest scientific and technological achievement by the Chinese diesel locomotive industry, and will arrive at Mombasa Port by the end of January, together with the second batch of locomotives and rolling stock equipment.

The DF11, DF8B and DF7G diesel locomotive models represent the highest levels of Chinese diesel locomotive technology. They have played a key role in the sixth nationwide train speed-up campaign in China.

They newly acquired locomotives are expected to spearhead the historic mission of boosting the capacity of Kenya’s railway  transportation, engendering  smooth flow of traffic on the main artery of national economic development, thereby assisting in the realization of Kenya’s economic development goals, as captured in Vision 2030, the country’s premier blueprint.

According to the CRBC, the three locomotive models have been customized for Kenya’s tropical savannah climate, operational environment and future maintenance requirements, based on the results of field investigations carried out by Kenya Railways, CRBC and the locomotive manufacturer CRRC Corporation along the SGR line.

The next critical segment of the project, added Mr. LiQiang, involves the construction of high-quality stations, signalling,  communication and electricity works, to ensure the operation of the SGR line in time to contribute to Kenya’s socio-economic development and prosperity.

Under construction by CRBC, the Nairobi-Mombasa SGR line, which runs from Mombasa Port, East Africa’s biggest, is the first green-field railway line in Kenya in the last century. Significant progress has been made since commencement. The construction of sub-grade, bridge, culverts and main line track-laying is nearly  complete. The installation of  signalling, communication and electricity systems, and station building has come to an end. The preparation for full railway operation is currently underway. It is expected that the railway will start operations from June this year.

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