Taveta residents push for railway revival to rekindle trade

The metre gauge railway. 

When the Voi-Taveta railway was functioning over two decades ago, traders preferred this mode of transport to ferry their goods from Taveta and neighbouring Tanzania.  

The 110km metre gauge railway line is now dilapidated and some of its sections have been vandalised, with rail bars missing especially inside Tsavo West National Park.  

Some sections of railway land in Taveta have also been grabbed and stalls built on it. 

Some residents now say the collapse of the line was a big blow to traders, especially those who buy their farm produce in Taveta for sale in various parts of the county. 

Voi vegetable vendor Judith Wabosha said she used to travel to Taveta by train to buy her goods for business before the service collapsed.   

Revamping the line, she said, would boost the economy of the area that depends mainly on agriculture, especially for residents dealing in farm produce with low profit margins. 

"This railway was a lifeline to traders," she said. 
Taita Taveta Woman Representative Lydia Haika said the line needs to be revived to help businesses in the county. 

She said the government had refurbished old railway lines in other counties, neglecting the Voi-Taveta one. 

"Our old railway line is less than 150km, so we ask that the next government should consider renovating it. It used to help residents, especially women, to transport their goods from Taveta," she said. 

Traders said they used to travel day and night and they now want the line rehabilitated and linked to the standard gauge railway (SGR). 

The track was laid by the British government during World War I in 1914-1918. 

The government is planning to revive the railway line to boost cargo transport from the Mombasa port to Taveta. 

If rehabilitated, the line will transform the region’s economy by creating more job opportunities and improving the living standards of residents. 

Last year, the government, through the Department of Planning, announced that it had identified renovating the railway line as one of five multibillion-shilling projects to be used to lure investors to the county. 

Speaking in Mwatate, Planning Principal Secretary Saitoti Torome said plans to refurbish the old line were underway, adding that the project would be a major boost to international trade between Kenya and northern Tanzania.  

"The revival of the railway will also boost the ferrying of cargo by providing cheap transport from the port of Mombasa. Upon completion, the traders will have an easier mode of transport which will be cheaper compared to road transport,” he said. 

This comes as the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) plans to build an Inland Container Depot in Taveta to ease cargo evacuation and delivery to Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda. 

KPA has secured a 50-acre plot in Taveta, on the Taveta-Holili border, to establish an inland freight hub but construction has not started.  
If revived, the railway line and the freight hub will bring port facilities closer to customers, facilitate faster and more efficient trade and improve the business environment in the East African region. 


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