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400 Chinese operators take up Kenyan jobs on the new Madaraka Express train

The team comprises experienced engineers, security personnel and staff of rail operations from China.

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However, it will take a bit longer before Kenyans fully manage and run the multi-million worth Standard Gauge Railway which began its operations on 31st May.

About 400 Chinese operators have signed a deal with China Road and Bridge Cooperation (CRBC) to be part of the daily operations of Madaraka Express train.

The team comprises experienced engineers, security personnel and staff of rail operations from China who will be in Kenya for the next 10 years until the railway operation is handed over to the Kenyan team, according to Kenya Railways Managing Director Atanas Maina.

Currently, there are about 300 locally trained personnel manning the train according to Kenya Railways.

“We intend to add a few more going forward. This will depend on the volume of business and the skill sets required,” said Maina.

The move comes days after more than 1,000 passengers were left stranded for 89 minutes after an engine stalled in Kibwezi.

The train, which had left Mombasa terminus at 9:00 am was scheduled to arrive in Nairobi at 1:42 pm ended up arriving at 3:30 pm.

It is not clear though if the breakdown necessitated the move or it is purely coincidental.

Kenya Railways, however, maintains that the SGR crew was simply following a safety procedure after a technical alert was issued from the system.

“We are confident of the functionality of the Madaraka Express and safety of our passengers remains paramount. We are working on continuous improvement of our service in order to improve on our customer’s experience,” Mr. Maina said.

Last year, Kenya announced it was sending 60 students to China to study railway engineering for four years, in a move aimed at revamping the railway sector.

The first batch of 25 students flew to China last year while the second batch of students, 36 in total left the country for China early this year.

The Kenyan students are undertaking a Bachelor’s degree course in Railway engineering for four years at Beijing Jiatong University at a cost of  $48 thousand per student.

The programme is being funded by Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) contractor, China Roads Bridge and Corporation (CRBC).

Since its launch, the train has carried more than 700,000 passengers charging Sh700 and Sh3,000 on economy class and first class coaches respectively.

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