SGR... We will forge forward, negative reporting notwithstanding

[SIZE=6]Could Kenya be building another ‘lunatic line’?[/SIZE]
29 September 2016
[li]From the sectionAfrica[/li][/ul] copyrightNAIROBI RAILWAY MUSEUM
Thousands of railway workers died building Kenya’s so-called “lunatic line”, some by man-eating lions. The BBC’s Alastair Leithead considers if a new railway line through a national park could get the same nickname.

In the top drawer of a desk at Nairobi Railway Museum sits a little box containing three small lion claws that are more than 100 years old.
“The man-eating lions really caused havoc in the history of the railway construction,” says assistant curator Elias Randiga.
They belonged to the two lions that struck fear into the workers laying railway tracks from Mombasa through what was then the Kenyan wilderness.
“They managed to kill 100 people, but the total number who died from diseases and other causes was 4,000 - for each mile, four people died,” he says.
Image captionThese claws are more than 100 years old and belonged to man-eating lions
Kenya’s first cross-country railway line was dubbed “the lunatic line”, but not just for the cost in lives caused by man-eating lions, malarial swamps and hostile local tribesmen.
It was such an expensive engineering project that the British parliament suggested only lunatics would spend so much on a railway line to the middle of nowhere.
The construction, which began in 1896, led to the founding of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, and the railway eventually reached Uganda.

[SIZE=5]‘It’s a white elephant’[/SIZE]
These days building a new railway is a lot faster and easier using the latest Chinese track-laying technology - trains which lay the lines as they go along - but it is still ferociously expensive. copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionNairobi National Park is the nearest national park to a city in the world
Kenya is borrowing billions that it will have to pay back and critics are asking the same questions British parliamentarians did back in the late 1800s - why is it costing so much and is it value for money?
“It’s a white elephant - we don’t need it,” says Kenyan economist David Ndii.
“It’s not necessary, it’s overpriced. It’s the most expensive single project we have done and it’s not economically viable now or in the future.”
He believes Kenya is taking on too much debt - for big infrastructure projects and for other developments which have not been accounted for.
Image captionA train puts down the new line as it goes along
Phase one from Mombasa to Nairobi is almost complete, and it aims to take container traffic off the roads and boost the economy.
But the voices of protest are now growing louder, as plans for phase two have it cutting through Nairobi National Park.
They include conservationists, Maasai community members and those afraid this will be the beginning of the end for one of the only national parks in the world to still exist within a city boundary.
Rhinos, lions, giraffes, buffaloes and various antelope species graze with the iconic backdrop of Nairobi’s city skyscrapers.
Development is squeezing in on its boundaries, with roads, new housing estates and now the railway line redefining its borders.

[SIZE=5]Building bridges[/SIZE]
“I think it will change the park forever - it’s not going to be a wild area any more,” says Anthony Childs, who runs a tourist lodge on the edge of Nairobi National Park.
He showed us an area where phase one of the railway had already cut into the protected area.
A long line of concrete pillars is waiting for a concrete bridge to be lowered into place, and heavy machinery is cutting an embankment.
Image captionBridge building has started through one area of Nairobi National Park
“For this bit of incursion into the park we were not consulted at all - it was done without asking us,” he says.
“What is shocking is how much they have destroyed the land underneath, all of this being national park, and this is our worry for the track that goes across the middle.”
He would like to see the track go around the south of the park, and there are less-favoured alternative routes.
“This park was a pristine piece of land in the beginning,” says Mr Childs.
“First of all there was a pipeline across it, then there were pylons, now there’s a railway along the side which now will go across. When will it stop?”
Kitili Mbathi, the director general of Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), tried to reassure protesters who recently delivered a petition against the 6km (3.7-mile) raised bridge.
“We will be working with the contractor to make sure the construction will be as least disruptive as possible and as environmentally friendly as possible,” he says.
“We believe that given the circumstance we have found ourselves in, this is the least obtrusive solution.”
The first phase included a station built north of the national park, so the only option for phase two is now crossing the middle or doubling back on itself, costing a great deal more and still taking a chunk out of the protected area.
“We were between a rock and a hard place - either give up 50 hectares [124 acres] and increase the cost by 50%, or have the least obtrusive bridge across the park,” says Mr Mbathi.
The KWS, along with veteran conservationist Richard Leakey, pushed for the extra expense of a bridge, so the animals can at least move freely once the construction is finished.
Although this is no longer Maasai land, their elders say the area was given to the colonial government for the specific use of wildlife, and building a bridge is breaking that deal.

[SIZE=5]Borrowing spree[/SIZE]
The protests continue and, as the president was preparing to announce stage two, a court ruling suspended work until a more comprehensive study of its impact had been completed. copyrightAP
Image captionProtesters in Nairobi have taken to the streets this month
A broader worry, voiced by economist Mr Ndii, concerns the Kenyan government’s huge borrowing spree.
“You are already beginning to see the impact of this borrowing on government finances,” the economist says.
"Debt servicing is going to consume almost a half of revenue now and these projects are not yet delivering any return.
“We are working ourselves into some kind of fiscal crisis in a couple of years.”
The track laying gradually continues towards the Ugandan border and beyond.
It was designed to be a regional railway, but neighbouring countries are now considering cheaper alternative rail plans.
Its lunacy, or otherwise, will be decided by how much freight it hauls and whether in the years ahead all that debt is worth it.

1 Like

Money is poured to delay the progress, a few coins to several activist to stir shit. The west is jelous, they use their money on stupid NGOs instead of doing some useful work


Relax, hapa watu wanacheswo. Government knew they want a cause to protest about so they set them up to fail.

The cheapest route through Nairobi national park is the 6km underground tunnel through the middle of the park in the savanna section which is open grasslands. This was the SGR first offer to KWS but they turned it down since during the construction the park will be split into two. The Tunnel will be built by dig, place and cover. It will only take 18 months to construct and 1 month for the vegetation to recover. However the same activists overruled Leakey saying the 18 months interruption is too much and they prefer a bridge over the park which allows for movement of animals. They settled for a tall bridge tower which will take longer to build, 30 meter deep to spread the vibrations deep underground, 70 meter tower above ground which is very tall with sound barriers on either side of the truck to deflect the noise upwards. The towers will have to be decorated to fit the park scenery and hooks to allow plant climbers to grow around it. KR has even sent a team to netherlands to benchmark their bridges which have plant camouflaged. Now the same activists have launched a campaign against their own compromise decision and government is silently happy. If the decision is reversed back to the tunnel we save a few billions, the activist lose the plot and SGR is back on.


Funny thing is, the British are the ones who built the older railway! Elsewhere, writers point out how everyone was skeptical about the railway to nowhere (hence the name lunatic line), only for them to be proven astronomically wrong by the positive and exponential development the railway brought to the hinterland. The writer of this article does not bother to tell or, at least, give a hint of those successes of that lunatic railway! He, also, doesn’t care to highlight the expected gains and development potentials that the railway is expected to bring to the Kenyan economy! Hata ni heri huyo ndii!

1 Like

Tunnel it is. But it will be quite long ama?

6kms, straight line, cut-place-cover, very easy for this Chinese company, ironically the cheapest route and cleverly planned to be compromised route.