The Busia County Commissioner (CC), Joseph Kanyiri has urged residents of Malaba who have encroached on the
railway reserve to pave way for the rehabilitation of the facility.
Speaking during a Stakeholders’ meeting at Malaba Railway Station office on Wednesday, Kanyiri noted that there has been encroachment by the local community over the time that operations at the facility had stalled.
“The railway land was mapped so its boundaries are known,’’ he said and added that some people had resorted to building houses within the railway reserve.
He stated that such structures will have to be demolished to pave way for the reconstruction work which is expected to start soon.
‘‘We now need to sensitise the local community about the return of the railway operations and the need for the people to vacate the area,’’ he said adding that those operating along the railway line such as traders need to vacate.
The CC further noted that illegal crossings such as roads that criss cross the railway line at non-designated sites will be removed to ensure the smooth movement of the cargo train.
‘‘We will have a few roads running parallel to the railway line alongside minimal crossings,’’ he said.
He however,explained that those who got the railway property through the right procedure through lease agreements with the Kenya Railway will have the leases terminated within the agreements.
‘‘There could be public roads maintained by KERRA, KURA or County government that are crisis crossing the railway line within non designated sites will not be maintained,” he said, adding that there are procedures of constructing such roads so that it does not interfere with the working of the railway line by causing accidents.
The CC further stated that the return of the railway line will also come with employment opportunities for the youth especially where non skilled labour is required.
Kanyiri however, noted that there has also been wanton destruction like cutting the fence, ripping off the railway slippers and other items at the facility over the years of disuse warning that those found engaging in the vice risked arrest and prosecution.
The Kenya Railways Corporation Operations Manager, Christopher Andimu said the rehabilitation work is
being carried out from Longonot to Malaba with a view to connect the Standard Gauge Railway from Suswa
to Longonot so that cargo can easily reach Malaba.
“The line is already being worked on from Nakuru to Kisumu,’’ he said, adding that rehabilitation of the old railway line will make it safer.
Andimu explained that one train will be able to carry 22 wagons or 44 containers, adding that the move will reduce the burden on the roads.
‘‘It is very crucial that we have support from all the relevant stakeholders to ensure that this project is a success,’’ he said.
He disclosed that the rehabilitation works is expected to take eight months, adding that work should start as soon as possible.
‘‘The contractor will be on site any time from now,’’ he said, adding that they are only awaiting clearance on whether to begin from Eldoret or Malaba.
The official reiterated that there is a need for community sensitisation especially on their safety at level crossings.
‘‘Passenger trains will also come after the introduction of cargo trains to assist the community in moving from one place to another,’’ he said.
The Busia Executive Committee Member for Public, Works Transport and Infrastructure, Ekirapa Okwara thanked the government for the initiative, adding that the facility was a livelihood to the local community during its operations in the 80s and 90s.
Okwara stated that the revival will go a long way in improving the county’s economy through trade.
‘‘One contributor to poverty in Busia is the lack of a good transport system and so I really thank the National government for the good initiative,’’ he said.
‘‘We know that between Malaba and Bungoma, there is only one official level crossing at some point in Nambale Sub County,’’ he said, adding that a lot of development in terms of schools, hospitals necessitated creation of other crossings along the railway lines.
Okwara said that there is need to engage the local community on how to re-design the level crossings, adding that there will be no resistance from the local residents.
At least 2,000 long distance trucks ply both Busia and Malaba routes destined to Uganda and other East African Community states daily while transporting goods.
Long queues of trucks are commonplace at the two border facilities with looming dangers of explosion of flammable tankers.
On Friday last week, a tanker exploded at Malaba border leading to the death of one driver while four trucks were burnt to a shell.
The revival of the railway is expected to ease congestion along the roads as inflammable goods will be transported by cargo trains.
By Salome Alwanda