Kenya signs $240 million loan from China to electrify SGR

The electric railway system is expected to be completed in two years' time.

The deal, valued at Sh24.4 billion ($240 million) will link the railway line to a power line, which will run along with the rail.

The announcement comes days after Kenya Railways Managing Director, Atanas Maina said the government does not have the resources to transform the railway from diesel to electricity. He however retracted his statement saying his doubts were related to high-speed electric trains.

“We have not dropped plans for the electrification of the SGR line. What I was referring to is the country’s inability to operate high speed railway like the ones we have in developed nations such as China, Germany and UK,” Mr Maina said.

Ketraco says the contract will see the construction of 14 sub-stations along the Nairobi-Mombasa route, adding that the main goal of the project is to have the railway run on clean energy and further reduce transport cost.

The transmission line has a transfer capacity of 1,500 megawatts (MW) which is 200 MW short of the current national demand of 1,700 MW. It is billed as the longest and highest voltage transmission infrastructure in East Africa.

In total, it is estimated that the electric upgrade of the Nairobi-Mombasa line will cost Sh 65 billion, which is 20 percent of the initial cost of constructing the Nairobi-Mombasa SGR line.

The government has spent Sh447 billion on the diesel-powered Mombasa-Nairobi 472 kilometre line which is higher than Ethiopia's 750 kilometre electric line, built at a cost of Sh 346 billion ($3.4 billion).

Kenyan authorities have however argued that Ethiopia’s project is not comparable to Kenya’s, which comes with extra infrastructure to navigate a tougher terrain besides spending large amounts of money to compensate landowners.

And while Kenyans will be able to enjoy fast speeds and travel times with the electric trains, it is still unclear how the railway will be able to sustain its energy demands without interfering with the county's current power supply arrangements.

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