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Steady progress in Standard Gauge Railway construction: Chinese firm

09 February 2015, 09:16

Nairobi - A Chinese construction firm said on Saturday it was making steady progress in the construction of the standard gauge railway (SGR) in Kenya.

The first phase of SGR will see the railway built from Kenya's coastal city Mombasa to the capital Nairobi. China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) said it has done all the crucial groundwork works along the railway route, including land clearing, staff recruitment, bringing in required equipment and putting in place the foundation for the railway.

"We have made sufficient preparations for the Mombasa–Nairobi SGR Project in aspects of organisation structure, personnel mobilization and supply of machinery, equipment and materials. Everything has been put in place," Julius Li, Manager of Liaison Department with CRBC Kenya, said in a statement issued in Nairobi.

So far, he said CRBC has put up 21 campsites along the railway route, each of which will oversee the construction of specific segments of the SGR. Li said the campsites will decentralise management of construction works and are in turn expected to provide effective and efficient management compared to overseeing construction from a central place.

According to the manager, the company has also built 12 concrete mixing plants, with plans to increase this to a total of 17 plants at different points along the railway. There are 12 laboratories along the railway route that have started testing samples of different materials, including soil and cement that will be used for construction of the railway.

China has agreed to fund the first phase of a standard gauge railway line linking the East African nation's port city of Mombasa to Uganda, Burundi and South Sudan. China Exim Bank will fund 90 percent of the 3.8 billion U.S. dollar project that will cover 480 kilometers from Mombasa to Nairobi.

Also read: House committee probes rail project technology

"We have compiled staff manuals for our Chinese and Kenyan employees working on the railway project that will act as a guide for their conduct while at work. It spells out mechanism to reward employees excelling at their job as well as disciplinary measures to punish wayward behaviour," said Li.

He said the Chinese firm had recruited some 8,000 Kenyans by last month to work at the different campsites along the railway, and plans to hire about 30,000 workers in the coming months as construction works intensify.

Li also said the plant for manufacturing sleepers provide job opportunities and train large numbers of Kenyan employees during construction of the railway. "Even after the railway is complete, the plant will continue to be operational and offer jobs for locals."

He added that the company had put in mechanisms to ensure conducive work place for the employees and the smooth progress of the project.

"All CRBC employees, Kenyan or Chinese, are subject to equal treatment, including disciplinary actions for errant employees and equal pay for equal work," he clarified. "Our salaries are way above the industry standards. The rates that we use to pay our employee salaries are among the highest in the industry. We also give employees additional perks that include a house allowance, overtime allowance and daily shuttle services to and from work."

The firm also has an in-house safety policy that requires all employees to be issued with safety gear.

"We have made efforts to ensure that the work place is safe. All employees, both Kenyan and Chinese, have been issued with protective gear like helmets, gloves, dust masks, reflective vest and safety belts for those working in areas above a prescribed height. These are replaced whenever they are worn out," he said, adding these are in addition to a host of other environmental, safety and health measures.

The standard gauge railway, a Vision 2030 flagship project, will significantly reduce the transportation costs and save time, and have a direct impact on cost of commodities and generally ease cost of doing business.

It is expected to cut by half the time passengers take to travel from Mombasa to Nairobi from the current eight hours to about four and a half hours. Freight trains will reduce the time it takes to move cargo between the two cities to eight hours.

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- Xinhua

Tags kenya china

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