Madaraka Express – SGR Kenya

Once upon a time it took over 12 hours to cover the 480 kilometres of elephant-patrolled wilderness that separates bustling Nairobi from beautiful Mombasa. Now it takes just over four hours on the new SGR Kenya (Standard Gauge Railway) opened in July 2017.

Delivering the ultimate in swift, sleek and satisfying African game-viewing experiences, the new railway is the result of a Chinese cooperative project that will eventually see it reach Kigali, Kampala and Juba. High on wildlife and low on carbon footprint, the trip is economical too – just US$42.7 one-way first class and $6.6 in economy.

SGR Kenya – The new `Lunatic Express’

Famous in 1898 as the location for one of the most famous railway projects in the world, the so-called ‘Lunatic Express’, Kenya is about to gain recognition for another mega-engineering project. And whereas the ‘Lunatic Express’ was built with the intention of linking Mombasa to Uganda (but only got as far as the shores of Lake Victoria), the new railway aims to link Mombasa to Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan.
Quite a haul.

Begun in 2013, stage one of the 609 km Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) was completed in December 2017 at which point it  reduced the time taken to travel between Mombasa and Nairobi from over ten hours to around four. The builders of the new railway are unlikely, however, to face the problems encountered by their predecessors.

At that time, while laying track across what is now Tsavo National Park, they encountered a pair of man-eating lions that devoured 35 men. One night, or so the story goes, having consumed the station master, the signalman, and the points man alike, the lions tried to tear their way through the corrugated iron of the station roof, at which point the terrified telegraph clerk sent the following message to Nairobi; ‘Lion fighting with station. Send urgent succour’.

The ‘man-eaters of Tsavo’ (stuffed) can be viewed in the Chicago Museum of Natural History, Illinois. The carriage from which they dragged the man employed to shoot them can be explored in the Nairobi Railway Museum. Alternatively, if you’d like to catch the last train to offer one of the world’s greatest train journeys, you can pull out of Nairobi at around 7pm, enjoy a manic dinner in one of the maddest dining cars on earth, sleep in a carriage that rocks so violently that earlier travellers were advised to remove their false teeth, and arrive in Mombasa, gritty, disheveled but exhilarated, at around 7am – give or take the odd hour or two spent waiting for sundry rhino or elephant to move off the track. Its quite a journey – do it while you still can.

Cheaper fares for Nairobi City residents as Madaraka Express begins inter-county train service

Updated: 01.11.2017

Nairobi City residents travelling to neighbouring counties are set to enjoy cheaper fares after the launch of the inter-county train service. The train will stop at Athi River in Machakos County, Emali, Kibwezi, and Mtito Andei in Makueni County, Voi in Taita Taveta, Miasenyi on the border of Taita Taveta and Kwale counties, and Mariakani in Kilifi County.

Those travelling from Nairobi to Athi River will pay Sh50 while those travelling to Mtito Andei will pay Sh360 compared to Sh500 in buses.

Passengers travelling to Voi from Nairobi will pay Sh510 in the economy class, instead of about Sh1,000 by bus. The fare to Maisenyi will be Sh590 while those travelling to Mariakani will part with Sh600.

The introduction of the Madaraka Express comes about three months after the official launch of the standard gauge railway train operations between Nairobi and Mombasa. Passengers on that route pay Sh700 for economy class and Sh3,000 for first class.

The train can carry 1,200 passengers at a go, which is the same as the number of people transported by 20 buses.

City residents who spoke to Metropolitan welcomed the news, saying they were impatient to try out the service.

“The train will ease traffic congestion, especially on Mombasa road, since many people spend hours from the city centre to Athi River,” said Miriam Mwikali.

She said all the governor aspirants in the August 8 General Election had promised to deliver a light rail system, an efficient means of transport.

Jacob Kimigho, a trader in Voi and Nairobi, said that if the strict timelines are adhered to, he could use the train to commute to Nairobi on a daily basis.

Bus and matatu operators, however, expressed reservations about the new service, saying it would render them jobless.

“The train may kill matatu and bus business because it carries a lot of people and charges cheaper,” said Kennedy Mwangangi, a driver.

John Mwaura, whose vehicle plies the Nairobi-Machakos and Makueni-Kitui routes, called on the Government to initiate partnerships with matatu operators to cushion them against losses.

President Uhuru Kenyatta Officially Launches Madaraka Express Passenger Service

Updated: 31.05.2017

President Uhuru Kenyatta officially opened the 472 km Standard Gauge Railway Kenya between the Indian Ocean port of Mombasa and Nairobi on May 31, travelling on the inaugural Madaraka Express passenger service. The previous evening he had launched an inaugural freight train from Port Reitz in Mombasa, waving a giant flag as choirs performed patriotic songs.

Kenyatta said the SGR would attract investment by bringing down freight and passenger transport costs. ‘The foundations we lay today will lead us to a new chapter of industrialisation’, he said, adding that the government would fast-track the establishment of special economic zones along the route.

Kenya Railway Corp said sending a 20 ft container between Mombasa and Nairobi would cost KSh50 000 by SGR, compared to KSh90 000 by road, and with the transit time cut from between 16 h and 24 h to a maximum of 8 h.

There will be two types of Madaraka Express passenger service, with the Intercity Train running non-stop from Mombasa to Nairobi and the County Train calling at the intermediate stations of Mariakani, Miasenyi, Voi, Mtito Andei, Kibwezi, Emali and Athi River.

China Eximbank met 90% of the US$3·6bn cost of SGR Phase 1, which has been built by China Road & Bridge Corp using Chinese equipment. A ground-breaking ceremony was held on November 28 2013, with main works formally starting in December 12 2014.

The 1 435 mm gauge line largely parallels the colonial-era 1 000 mm gauge Kenya–Uganda Railway. The new single-track line is built to Chinese ‘Class 1’ standards, designed for robustness and low maintenance, with 25 tonne axleloads and passenger trains operating at up to 140 km/h and freight trains at up to 80 km/h.

The route forms the first phase of a planned four-country network intended to provide high-capacity and cost-effective passenger and freight links between Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan.

Ceremonies in October 2016 marked the start of work by China Road & Bridge Corp on the 120 km Phase 2A from Nairobi to Naivasha. On February 2, ministers from Kenya and Uganda agreed synchronised 42-month timescales for the construction of Phase 2B from Naivasha to Kisumu, Phase 2C from Kisumu to the border at Malaba and the 273 km Uganda section to Kampala which is be built by China Harbour Engineering by mid-2020.

SGR – Standard Gauge Railway Kenya

 Standard Gauge Railway Kenya – Development

Kenya Railways Corporation is developing a new standard gauge railway (SGR) line for passengers and cargo transportation between Mombasa, the largest port in East Africa, and Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya.

The new railway line constitutes the first phase of the SGR project that aims to connect Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan.

The Mombasa-Nairobi SGR is the biggest infrastructure project in Kenya since independence. It will shorten the passenger travel time from Mombasa to Nairobi from more than ten hours to a little more than four hours. Freight trains will complete the journey in less than eight hours.

Standard Gauge Railway Kenya Jobs

Construction of the 609km-long line began in October 2013 and is scheduled to be completed by December 2017. At least 60 new jobs a kilometre of track or approximately 30,000 jobs are expected to be created during the construction.

The Mombasa-Nairobi phase of the project is estimated to cost KES 327 bn ($3.8bn). China Exim Bank will provide 90% of the financing while the remaining 10% will be contributed by the Kenyan Government.

Details of the standard gauge railway project – Standard Gauge Railway Kenya Route

The SGR project is proposed to connect Mombasa to Malaba on the border with Uganda and continue onward to Kampala, Uganda’s capital city. It will further run to Kigali in Rwanda with a branch line to Juba in South Sudan. Branch lines along the route will extend to Kisumu, Kasese and Pakwach.

The SGR is a flagship project under the Kenya Vision 2030 development agenda. It will simplify transport operations across the borders and reduce travel costs, apart from benefiting the economies of Kenya and the neighbouring countries.

The governments of Kenya and Uganda signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in October 2009 to construct the SGR from Mombasa to Kampala. A tripartite agreement was signed by the governments of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda in August 2013 to fast track the development of the railway to their respective capital cities.

The Ugandan section of the SGR line was launched in October 2014. The SGR line from Mombasa to Kigali is expected to be completed by 2018. Kenya Railways Corporation is responsible for the construction of the 1,300km-long track inside Kenya from Mombasa to Malaba via Nairobi.

Details of the Mombasa-Nairobi SGR line – Kenya Standard Gauge Railway Route

The single-track standard gauge railway between Mombasa and Nairobi will have a route length of 472km and a total length of 609km. It will run through the counties of Mombasa, Kilifi, Kwale, Taita-Taveta, Makueni, Kajiado, Machakos and Nairobi.

The Class 1 line will have a superior design catering to robust and low-maintenance requirement. The new line will run parallel to the existing meter gauge railway and the Mombasa-Nairobi Road or A109 Highway for the most part. It will deviate at certain points to attain the desired gradient and curvature.

State-of-the-art passenger stations will be built at Mombasa and Nairobi as well as five other intermediate stations at Mariakani, Voi, Mtito Andei, Sultan Hamud and Athi River. A total of 40 stations are planned to be built along the line, 33 out of which will be ready when the railway becomes operational.

The freight terminals will be located at the Mombasa port and the Inland Container Depots at Embakasi in Nairobi. The railway line is designed to carry 22 million tonnes a year of cargo or a projected 40% of Mombasa Port throughput by 2035.

The challenges posed by the steep incline and ragged terrain of the Miritini to Mazeras section will be overcome by constructing long viaducts, deep cuttings and high embankments.

Fencing will be provided throughout the Tsavo National Park along the route and underpassages will be built for wild animals at short intervals.

Rolling stock of the SGR line – Standard Gauge Railway Kenya Speed

The line will initially carry diesel cars while electrification is possible in future. Multiple unit passenger trains having a capacity of 960 passengers will travel at an average speed of 120km/h on the line.

Freight trains will have a capacity of 216 TEUs and travel at an average speed of 80km/h. A typical freight train on the line will consist of 54 double stack flat wagons and measure 880m-long.

China will supply the initial rolling stock comprising 56 diesel locomotives, 1,620 wagons and 40 coaches.

 Standard Gauge Railway Kenya – Contractors involved

China Road and Bridge Corporation, a subsidiary of China Communications Construction Co., was contracted to build the project according to Chinese railway design standards.

Standard Gauge Railway Kenya

In 2012, plans were being developed to expand the system with a new railway that connects to other countries, namely Uganda, Rwanda, and possibly South Sudan and Ethiopia. The new railway would be 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) gauge. Kenya had been negotiating with China to reconstruct the Nairobi-Mombasa section first. Construction of the first phase of the planned 2 937 km $13.5bn line was inaugurated in Mombasa on 28 November 2013.

Standard Gauge Railway Kenya Contacts Photo
Standard Gauge Railway Kenya Contacts Photo

 7 Key benefits of the standard gauge railway Kenya

  1. By providing a fast, efficient and reliable mode of transportation, the SGR cargo trains will help decongest the port of Mombasa by ensuring goods that arrive at the port are moved to the hinterlands without delays.
  2. Besides efficiency, the standard gauge railway will reduce the cost of transporting cargo from Mombasa to the hinterlands. According to the Kenya Railways Corporation, it will cost about Sh50,000 to transport a container through the SGR cargo trains compared to Sh90,000 by road from Mombasa to Nairobi.
  3.  The government expects the new railway to boost Kenya’s GDP growth of at least 1.5 per cent during its operation – allowing the Chinese loans to be “paid back in about years,” according to Transport secretary James Macharia.
  4. The facility will enable passengers to enjoy a faster and cheaper journey compared to eight-hour bus trips between Nairobi and Mombasa. This will help reduce wear and tear on highways; thereby reducing roads maintenance cost.
  5. The railway will drastically reduce the number of heavy trucks on the road. This is expected to reduce the number of accidents; hence making the roads safer for human traffic.
  6. The standard gauge railway will speed up industrialisation through cheaper transport and the establishment of new industries to service the new railway.
  7. The new railway will protect the environment through reduced carbon emission.

Standard Gauge Railway Kenya – Contacts

The project will connect Mombasa via Kampala to Kigali, hence MoKaKi. President Uhuru Kenyatta presided over the groundbreaking ceremony for the standard gauge railway in November 2013. The whole project is expected to cost Ksh 1.3T (327b from Msa to Nrb a distance of 609 km including locomotives).

Kenya Railways Website and Contacts

Workshops Road Off Haille Selasssie Avenue
Opposite Technical University of Kenya
P.O Box 30121 – 00100 Nairobi
Fax: 020 – 340040, 224156
Tel: 070990700, 0728603881/2, 0708572574, 0708571587
24hr Emergency No. 0711777577
E-mail:, contact

Kenya Standard Gauge Railway Contacts – Video

Standard Gauge Railway Kenya Map

standard gauge railway kenya map
standard gauge railway kenya map