Hope fades for revival of Kisumu-Butere train service

NYS personnel working on the old metre-gauge railway

National Youth Service personnel working on the old metre-gauge railway line at Nanyuki on January 30. The planned rehabilitation of the Kisumu-Butere line has stalled.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

As the Jubilee administration’s term ends, residents of Yala in Gem-Yala sub-county are worried that the metre gauge railway that runs through their town will not be revived.

The resuscitation of the Nairobi-Kisumu railway line had raised hopes that the Yala-Butere track would also be revived.

Kenya Railways reintroduced the Nairobi-Kisumu service on December 17 last year after a break of close to two decades.

The good reception that it received prompted the corporation to begin rehabilitating the Kisumu-Butere railway in September but work stalled.

“We expected to have the rail operating now because they promised they would not take long in rehabilitating the railway. The railway would open our town and many opportunities would be created for our youths,” said Mr Michael Owino, a retired civil servant and resident of Yala.

Earlier this month, the corporation introduced a night train from Kisumu to Nairobi to meet growing demand, but it has been silent on extending services to Butere in Kakamega County.

Launch by Uhuru

The line was one of the projects that were meant to be launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta before he leaves office.

The others in the Nyanza region include the Sh3 billion refurbished Kisumu port, Sh350 million ultra-modern Uhuru business park, Jomo Kenyatta International Stadium at the Mamboleo ASK grounds, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Sports Complex, Inland Container Depot at Kibos and 400kV power project by Ketraco.

“You can see the railway line is overgrown with thicket and some parts lie underground. It therefore requires serious work before seeing the maiden train trip from Kisumu to Butere. The hooting of the train as it snakes into Yala town on its way to Butere is a picture that some of us have missed seeing for many years,” he noted.

He added: “If you follow on, you will also find out that there are people who have cultivated the land where the meter gauge railway passes through. It will also be mandatory for the corporation to consider repossessing the land that the people have cultivated for the two decades.”

Mr Samuel Wafula, a farmer in Butere, had hoped that the train would ease transportation of farm produce from Kakamega County to Nairobi.

“There are farmers who lack markets for their fresh farm products. The middlemen are exploiting them and end up making losses. A train is needed more than ever,” said Mr Wafula.

Parts vandalised

A spot check by the Nation also established that most of the railway parts have been vandalised, while others have rusted and would need to be replaced.

“The railway line is over a century old. The natural wear and tear and the vandalism caused by those looking for scrap metals have also contributed to the dilapidation,” said Mr Owino.

This year the National Assembly’s Finance and National Planning Committee allocated Sh300 million for the rehabilitation of the Kisumu-Butere metre gauge line.

Earlier this year, Kenya Railways announced that the rehabilitation would be completed and the first passenger and cargo trains would make their maiden trips by the end of June.

The Kisumu-Butere line extends to the Nakuru-Kisumu line, which then connects to the Standard Gauge Railway in Naivasha.


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