Plans to link Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Nairobi’s central business district might come close to reality after Kenya secured Sh14 billion loan from the French government.
Transport CS James Macharia confirmed that a commercial agreement to construct the five-kilometre line has been reached setting the stage for construction to commence in March 2022.
The loan was to bankroll the reconstruction of the17-kilometre railway track that links to the standard gauge railway (SGR) line at Syokimau from where the new line will be built to the JKIA.
The project was derailed by several wars between the tender bandits and project overseers which even threatened the deal inked by French President Emanuel Macron and his Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta who visited France in early October.
The National Treasury had raised red flag over the secret procurement of a consortium of French firms that ‘won’ bids to build the new railway line as it declined to remit funds to the Ministry of Transport.
But Transport ministry later told the Treasury that the five French companies led by Egis Group was part of the financing deal agreed with French government and a french bank BPI France Assurance Export.
“The French government has committed to finance the construction of a new rail link passing over Mombasa Road from Syokimau standard gauge rail terminus into JKIA to the tune of Sh14 billion. The cost will also include upgrading the existing meter gauge line from the Nairobi Central Station to Syokimau train terminus.” CS Macharia said.
The move means that the government has changed from the suggestion that would see JKIA rail built using private backers who were to recover their money from toll charges to go for French loan instead.
The planned linking by rail is part of the government efforts to decongest the capital city and reduce the time taken between the CBD and busiest airport in East and Central Africa which handles up to11.7 million domestic and international travelers in 2019.
Wars around the tender also hinged on revelations that the Cabinet has not approved the JKIA rail project, a multibillion-shilling trade agreement reached when Macron visited Kenya.
Professionals also point that the public private partnership (PPP) deal that Egis is pushing for has not fully complied with the Kenyan laws.
Egis wants to carry out the project with other french firms including Sogea-Satom, Alstom, Thales and Transdev.
The project was expected to be complete by 2021 after PR guru Macron viewed it as a major project that would cement bilateral ties between Paris and Nairobi that is already facing far east (China) in contruction of major infrastructural projects.
China loaned Kenya about Sh500 billion for construction of the SGR line from Mombasa to Nairobi, but critics have repeatedly expressed concerns over increasing debt burden and Chinese loans that are exaggerated.
China’s plan to build the same linking rail line was shelved because it was found to be costly like the SGR connecting outskirts of Mombasa and outskirts of Nairobi.
Reliable sources revealed to KB that corrupt Chinese constructors had attempted to block the delayed project.
President Macron’s push for partnership also other French firms sign deals worth over Sh300 billion during his two-day visit when their rivalry with China was aired for the public.