A China-based firm that has been running major functions of Kenya’s Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) has surrendered some of them to Kenya.
The functions include loading and offloading of the SGR passenger and cargo trains to Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC).
This comes two months ahead of the actual scheduled date for the handover when the Africa Star Railway Operation Company (AfriStar) had agreed to do so.
Kenya Railways was only tasked with handling ticketing, security, and fueling functions that were handed to it in March 2021.
“The corporation (Kenya Railway) has now assumed the loading and offloading functions from Africa Star Railway Operation Company, and in terms of percentages, we can say that we are now at 60 per cent,” said KRC Managing Director, Philip Mainga.
“The management and the board is determined to see a gradual takeover of operations from AfriStar. We are optimistic that once all staff members from the operator are brought on board, the cost of operation will go down,” he added.
KRC entered a deal with AfriStar, a subsidiary of China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), in 2017 to help Kenya manage the multi-billion project.
According to the contract, AfriStar has the right to manage the ticketing system and software and hardware functions of the SGR.
However, in 2020, President Uhuru Kenyatta-led government entered another deal to take over some of the functions by May 2022.
This decision was informed by reports that the payments to the operator were unsustainable.
Afristar had been contracted by KRC in 2017 to manage and maintain the SGR.
The Chinese firm during the contractual period was mandated with managing passenger ticketing and revenue collection. KRC was responsible for marketing the SGR but excluded from revenue collection.
The move by KRC comes after Afristar’s 2020 reign over the SGR was clustered by scandals. The operator was often accused of running unchecked operations. A scheme in which train cabins would be artificially checked off as fully booked.
The last term of President Kenyatta, partly, has focused on refurbishing Kenya’s railway network with KRC spending billions of shillings on refurbishing its century-old rail network to boost bulk cargo transportation and passenger travel.
Last year December, Kenya resumed passenger train service to Western part of Kenya after years of hiatus.