The new Standard Gauge Railway line from Mombasa to Nairobi has proven to be ‘mecca’ for scrap metal dealers.
For the past 5 months, vandals have stolen an estimated Sh1.2 billion worth of material from the railway line, leaving the safety of passengers at stake. According to the operator China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), the vandals have in recent weeks stepped up their efforts to leave no metal untouched. They have been carting away steel bars and fencing material on a near daily basis, from the line that was launched by President Kenyatta in June.
“Losses caused by vandalism and stealing activities are estimated at over Sh300 million per month since the train was launched on June 1,” said Sia Li, head of public relations at CRBC. “The most targeted items are steel bars, electrical and signals facilities.”
During its launch, the president stated that he would not hesitate in having railway vandals receive the maximum sentence, but that has seemingly not deterred them. According to CRBC officials, the vandalism from the Sh327 billion project will continue for as long as there is a thriving scrap metal market in the country.
The company is calling upon communities living along the line to report any illegal activity. If unchecked, the theft might see domestic and wild animals crossing the railway line, endangering the lives of passengers.
“The stolen equipment along the railway line jeopardize the safety of commuters on the SGR train. This is potentially risky because lives of passengers are invaluable,” Ms Li told the Business Daily.
Just last month, over 140 accidents were witnessed on the line after herders broke the barriers restricting access.
Before the addition of more trips, the train services has been carrying 2700 passengers a day. It does not have an insurance policy meaning there is no compensation to passengers in case of an accident.