Ground broken on East Africa railway

By Chris Sleight02 December 2013

Ground has been broken on a new US$ 4 billion rail link between the Kenyan capital Nairobi and the port city of Mombasa. The scheme is due for completion in 2017, with China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) the main contractor and the majority of the finance coming from the Export-Import Bank of China.

With passenger train speeds of 120 km/h and freight speeds of 80 km/h, the new 500 km line is expected to cut journey times between the two cities to four hours, from the current 15 hours.

The line is part of an ambitious international railway network planned for East Africa. There are plans for a network that will link major cities in Burundi, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda, reaching more than 1500 km inland from Mombasa and as far as 1,500 km north to the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. A project is already underway to build a rail link from Addis Ababa to the port of Djibouti on the Gulf of Aden.

However, the Nairobi – Mombasa line has attracted criticism for being awarded to a Chinese contractor without an open tendering process, in exchange for financing from the Chinese state.

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