Nov 29, 2013

Kenya Kicks Off Construction of New Rail Line




Kenya began construction on the Chinese funded standard gauge railway project on Wednesday. The new rail line is intended to dramatically increase trade and boost the country's position as a regional economic powerhouse. 

The key transport link, to run from the busy port city of Mombasa inland to the highland capital Nairobi, is eventually hoped to extend onwards to Uganda, and then connect with proposed lines to Rwanda and South Sudan. 

Thursday's launch marked the commencement of the first phase of the project, comprising the Mombasa-Nairobi segment that covers 500km.

Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony in Mombasa, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta says the new rail will reduce transportation cost to all East African destinations.

"Upon completion of the standard gauge railway, transport costs in the region will reduce by more than 60 percent," Kenyatta said. 

"This is the reason why we must view the substantial investment in the railway as a worthy investment to underpin the regional economic agenda. An economy only ever thrives on the foundation of proper infrastructure," he added.

The Chinese Ambassador to Kenya, Liu Guangyuan, said that Kenya is stepping forward and the project will be a landmark for both Kenya and the East Africa. "China has the technology and capability to handle the project and will offer the best service in constructing the standard gauge railway," Liu said. 

The Mombasa-Nairobi railway line is to be constructed by China Road and Bridge Corporation and it is expected to be operational by 2018.
Source - english.cri.cn

MULTI-BILLION RAIL PROJECT LAUNCHED


A sample of the old railway line and the Standard gauge railway line displayed during the launch of the Standard Gauge railway line project by President Uhuru Kenyatta. Photo Norbert Allan


COAST leaders yesterday changed tune and declared support for the Mombasa-Malaba standard gauge railway as it was launched by President Uhuru.

Uhuru criticised the Coast leadership for opposing the project that he promised will reduce the cost of transportation of goods and passengers by 60 per cent and also reduce road accidents when it is completed by 2018.

On Tuesday, Changamwe MP Omar Mwinyi, Jomvu MP Badi Twalib and Mvita MP Abdulswamad Shariff Nassir called for the project to be halted because it had been single sourced.

They also queried whether the China Road and Bridge Corporation had built any railway lines and said it had been blacklisted by the World Bank in 2009.

“We are not opposed to the project. We only wanted information. Once we got the information we were satisfied,” Mwinyi said yesterday.

An annoyed Uhuru said cheap politics should not derail development. “This is the beginning. Everything has a beginning,” he said.

Earlier, Mombasa county women representative Mishi Mboko dismissed that CRBC could not construct the railway. She said all issues had been cleared in Parliament and Transport Secretary Michael Kamau had issued a satisfactory report about the project.

“We were in China the other day to tour their company. We saw that they can do more than this project. In fact, we want them to come and construct a bridge at the Likoni crossing channel,” Mboko said.

The first phase of the project is expected to start in early 2014 and will involve construction of a 500km railway line from Mombasa to Nairobi and will cross Kilifi, Kwale, Taita Taveta, Machakos, Makueni, and Kajiado counties. The whole project will cost about Sh223.6 billion. Kamau described the launch of the project as the start of African renaissance.

Ruto remembered that 120 years ago Koitalel Samoei led armed resistance against the construction of the railway but said it will not meet with any Nandi resistance today.

Mombasa governor Hassan Joho said Coast leaders did not oppose the project in bad faith. He said the issues they had raised were pertinent and needed to be ironed out.

However Justice George Odunga yesterday said that the concerns raised by the Dock Workers Union over CRBC contract were genuine.

“I am satisfied that the issues raised are grave and serious. The applicants have established a prima facie case and I hereby grant them leave to apply for orders as sought in the petition,” he said.

He declined to stop the start of construction, pending determination of the case, but said they can still apply to stop construction when they get a clear picture of the contract. Justice Odunga directed them to file the main case within seven days.The union says that the award of the contract to the Chinese company through single-sourcing was illegal.

However the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure has defended the contract saying that the Cabinet directed that the railway be developed through a government- to-government arrangement, supported by the budget and a railway development fund.

State counsel Emmanuel Bitta argued that there were clear timelines in the contract and serious consequences if they were not met.

He defended the Chinese company saying that it had constructed 14 railways across the world and had been recommended by the Chinese government.

An affidavit from Cabinet Secretary Michael Kamau said that the contract had been approved by his Ministry and the Attorney General’s office.

He said government has set aside Sh22 billion for railway development in the 2013/14 budget and established a Railway Development Fund which will be financed by a 1.5 percent levy on the cost of all imports. The levy will raise at least Sh15 billion in 2013/14.

The Dock Workers Union maintained that the contract is an “obstructive waste of public funds" as the price per kilometre has been pegged at US$6million compared to the international norm of $2 million.

Bitta said that among the railway will create at least 60 new jobs per kilometre during construction, and more than 400 engineers and high technology technicians will be trained.

- See more at: http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/article-145429/multi-billion-rail-project-launched#sthash.54kyZg8n.dpuf

Kenya launches new railway to reach South Sudan and Burundi

Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta

President Kenyatta (centre) launched the railway in Mombasa

Kenya has formally launched a new, Chinese-financed railway which should extend across East Africa to reach South Sudan, DR Congo and Burundi.

The first section will link the Kenyan port of Mombasa to the capital, Nairobi, reducing the journey time from 15 hours to about four.

It is said to be the country's biggest infrastructure project since independence 50 years ago.

The cost of the railway will be $5.2bn (£3.2bn) - mostly funded by China.

Some Kenyans have complained that the contract was given to the Chinese state-owned China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) without going to tender.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping agreed the deal in August in Beijing.

It is also hoped that the railway will reduce congestion in Mombasa, one of Africa's busiest ports.

The current railway network dates back to the colonial era.

After the Nairobi section is finished, with completion due in 2017, it will be extended through Uganda, with branch lines west to Kisangani in the Democratic Republic of Congo, south through Rwanda to Burundi and north to South Sudan.

Passenger trains will travel at a top speed of 120 km/h (75 mph), while freight trains will have a maximum speed of 80 km/h.

"What we are doing here today will most definitely transform... not only Kenya but the whole eastern African region," President Kenyatta told crowds at the ceremony, calling it an "historic milestone", the AFP news agency reports.

"As a result East Africa will become a competitive investment destination," the agency quoted him as saying.

Earlier, he said the railway was one of the flagship projects of his government's ambitious Vision 2030 initiative to improve much-neglected infrastructure.

"The project will define my legacy as president of Kenya and it is my personal desire that the implementation is done to the standard," he said in a statement on Wednesday after meeting CRBC officials.

He also thanked the Chinese government for the "massive infrastructural projects in the country", which "reduced the cost of doing business and created employment through increased investments".

Kenya would be working closely with Uganda and Rwanda during the first phase, which would boost ties between the neighbours, he added.

"Kenya will fully meet its obligations towards the project. I will personally oversee its implementation," Mr Kenyatta said.
Source - BBC

Western Railway requests nod to raise platform height



MUMBAI: Western Railway (WR) has sought permission to considerably increase the height of its station platforms so that the gap between them and train footboards gets reduced.

It has sent a proposal to the commissioner of railway safety (western circle) to allow deviations from the Indian Railways' schedule of dimension, which indicates an obstruction-free zone through which a coach, wagon or engine can move. The schedule mandates that platform height "from the rail level" remain 760mm (2.5ft) to 840mm (2.7ft). "We have asked that we be allowed to raise platform height up to 920mm (3ft)," said new WR general manager Hemant Kumar.

Western Railway officials say that even a platform height of 920mm will not obstruct passing trains. They anticipate that the western circle commissioner's go-ahead will come in the near future. Still, the plan's implementation is not likely to start soon.

Before the construction work can commence, the approvals of the chief commissioner of railway safety and the railway board will also be needed. A senior WR official said: "If the western circle CRS does not approve, we will seek a waiver under the 'condonation clause', which allows the railway ministry to overturn his objection if the safety aspect is not compromised."

There are a total of 100 platforms on WR's suburban division. Officials say that, once all permissions are in place, they will start by raising platforms that are 760mm high. "Money is a constraint too; the cost of raising one platform is estimated to be Rs 50 lakh," said an official.

The gaps have increased over the years owing to the difference in designs of old and new rakes. The old rakes had "coil springs, which would get pushed down when the train was overcrowded". The platforms were designed keeping this factor in mind. But the new rakes have "air springs, which are sturdier and do not get pressed down".

Another reason for the growing gap is the rise in the levels of tracks because of escalations in the levels of adjoining roads. Not increasing the height of tracks can lead to water logging and in turn disruption of services.

Source - TOI

NMC again urges PM to appoint chairman of 7th Pay Commission



The National Mazdoor Conference (NMC) today urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to immediately appoint chairman and other members of the recently-announced 7th Pay Commission at the next cabinet meeting.
"We urge the PM to appoint Chairman and other members of the 7th Pay Commission and take decision in this regard at the next cabinet meeting as employees and pensioners will be entitled for pay commission with effect from January 1, 2011," NMC president Subash Shastri said while addressing a workers' rally here today.

He said discussion should be started with representatives of both central and state government employees.

The NMC president said early notification for appointing chairman and other members of the commission is the need of the hour, which is bound to have bearing on about one crore employees and pensioners.


Stressing the need for merging 50 percent DA with basic pay and pension, Shastri appealed to the PM and the Finance Minister to take an early decision in this regard.


He said the merging of DA is necessary and it would provide some relief to salaried employees. He also appealed to the state government to immediately release the pending instalment of DA due from July last year.

Source - RNC

High-speed rail network $30 billion cheaper than first thought: study



A comprehensive new study investigating eastcoast high-speed rail argues that it could be $30 billion cheaper than first thought and pay itself off entirely within 40 years.

The rail debate is back on track, with the Federal Government vowing to speak to the states about the project and to protect a future corridor for thenetwork.

The Melbourne-Sydney flight route is the fifth busiest in the world and for decades governments have been discussing high-speed rail as a solution to ease the pressure on airports.

Clean energy group Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) and the German aerospace centre came up with a model of a 1,799-kilometre route, linking Brisbane with Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.

According to their timetable, it showed the journey between Sydney and Melbourne would take two hours and 55 minutes, while Sydney to Canberra would take about an hour.

It proposes peak speeds of 350 kilometres per hour.

The BZE report puts the capital costs of the network at $84 billion, compared to $114 billion estimated from the previous Labor government's high-speed rail study.

"It's a lot cheaper to run and a lot cheaper to build because of the reduction in tunnelling and bridge-building that's required in the route we've selected," BZE's chief executive Dr Stephen Bygrave said.

Researcher Gerard Drew says their proposed alignment has 44 per cent fewer tunnels and 25 per cent fewer bridges.

German experience paves the way

The German aerospace centre, known as Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V (DLR), is the country's national centre for aerospace, energy and transportation research.

It has used Australia as a case study for building a next-generation rail network.

DLR's Simone Ehrenberger says it was more than just plotting points on a map.

"We did a quite detailed calculation of the actual routes of where the tracks are going within cities," she said.

"We considered the exact city access to the stations."

The man in charge of the country's project to build a next-generation train, Dr Joachim Winter, has thrown his support behind an east coast high-speed rail network in Australia.

"We think it's perfect because you have a concentration of large cities, but not so many people scattered around as Germany," he said.

He says Australia is in a great position to be building the network because it is virtually starting from scratch.

"To construct a high-speed railway is expensive, but it's not difficult because most of the problems have been understood," he said.

"[Australia] is a follower and in a better position than [Germany] had when we started to run this... without knowing everything about the consequences."

The European support has not just come from train researchers.

Senior officials like European Commission's deputy head of cabinet for transport, Keir Fitch, believe Australia should get on board as well.

Mr Fitch says it would be a smart decision for the east coast.

"You need to of course do the analysis properly, but where you've got passenger flows [like the ones between Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane] then it should [make sense]," he said.



We think [Australia is] perfect because you have a concentration of large cities, but not so many people scattered around as Germany.
Dr Joachim Winter

"Rail, particularly for densely populated areas has great benefits in that you can move people in and out of cities quickly and efficiently on it.

"You provide something which - all the experience we've had shows - is much more attractively certainly for getting people out of planes to trains, freeing up air capacity or simply reducing carbon emissions.

"You're not going to be able to do any of that with a road."
Expert says high-speed rail sums don't add up for Australia

The man who helped do the sums for the previous government's high-speed rail study says he understands the love for high-speed rail but that it just does not add up financially.

"The economics were not too bad - not great - but better than we all thought and that was because of the value of travel time savings compared to planes which have delays and so on," ACIL Allen Consulting's David Greig said.

"But the financial side was quite poor because you need to get revenue from those people who are getting a better service, and the study didn't find a way to do that, so although the economics were line ball, the return on investment was something like 1 per cent.

"Even just [building a network from] Sydney to Melbourne is $50 billion odd.

"Flipping through the newspapers one doesn't get the impression there's a spare $50 billion around at the moment."
Source.ABC

Kenya launches new railway to reach South Sudan and Burundi



President Kenyatta (centre) launched the railway in Mombasa

Kenya has formally launched a new, Chinese-financed railway which should extend across East Africa to reach South Sudan, DR Congo and Burundi.

The first section will link the Kenyan port of Mombasa to the capital, Nairobi, reducing the journey time from 15 hours to about four.

It is said to be the country's biggest infrastructure project since independence 50 years ago.

The cost of the railway will be $5.2bn (£3.2bn) - mostly funded by China.

Some Kenyans have complained that the contract was given to the Chinese state-owned China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) without going to tender.'Historic milestone'

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping agreed the deal in August in Beijing.

It is also hoped that the railway will reduce congestion in Mombasa, one of Africa's busiest ports.

The current railway network dates back to the colonial era.

After the Nairobi section is finished, with completion due in 2017, it will be extended through Uganda, with branch lines west to Kisangani in the Democratic Republic of Congo, south through Rwanda to Burundi and north to South Sudan.

Passenger trains will travel at a top speed of 120 km/h (75 mph), while freight trains will have a maximum speed of 80 km/h.

"What we are doing here today will most definitely transform... not only Kenya but the whole eastern African region," President Kenyatta told crowds at the ceremony, calling it an "historic milestone", the AFP news agency reports.

"As a result East Africa will become a competitive investment destination," the agency quoted him as saying.

Earlier, he said the railway was one of the flagship projects of his government's ambitious Vision 2030 initiative to improve much-neglected infrastructure.

"The project will define my legacy as president of Kenya and it is my personal desire that the implementation is done to the standard," he said in a statement on Wednesday after meeting CRBC officials.

He also thanked the Chinese government for the "massive infrastructural projects in the country", which "reduced the cost of doing business and created employment through increased investments".

Kenya would be working closely with Uganda and Rwanda during the first phase, which would boost ties between the neighbours, he added.

"Kenya will fully meet its obligations towards the project. I will personally oversee its implementation," Mr Kenyatta said.
Source..BBC

High-speed rail gets yellow light



Judge Michael Kenny didn't completely derail California's bullet train this week.

However, in ruling on two lawsuits challenging Gov. Jerry Brown's pet project, Kenny told the California High-Speed Rail Authority to slow down and stop sidestepping requirements in a 2008 ballot measure.

By rejecting the state's specious legal arguments, refusing to validate the issuance of state bonds and insisting on a complete financial plan as the law requires, Kenny signaled a strict attitude that could bode ill for the project in another big legal challenge next year.

While the project's Kings County opponents didn't get everything they sought in the rulings, one of their lawyers, Stuart Flashman, accurately said they "are a major setback for the High-Speed Rail Authority. They need to step back and rethink their whole approach."

That approach has been to push initial construction as rapidly as possible, apparently in hopes that if even a short stretch of track is laid in the San Joaquin Valley, it would incur a psychological commitment to finish the entire project, no matter what the cost.

Speed may be critical, because the 2008 bond issue barely passed. Since then, as costs have skyrocketed and its lack of financing has become apparent, public sentiment has turned against the project.

Without the ballot measure's restrictions, it probably would have failed, but it's also evident that as now envisioned, the project cannot meet all of the law's requirements.

One of Kenny's rulings says, in effect, that the state can't build that short stretch in the San Joaquin Valley without a plan that lays out how a much longer stretch from Merced toSouthern California can be financed.

Since the state has barely enough money for the first stretch, the barrier to meeting the larger financial standard is very high.

The judge's strict constructionist attitude toward the law governing the project could bite again when he weighs another suit that alleges other ballot measure standards are being ignored - such as requiring a 160-minute ride from downtown San Francisco to downtown Los Angeles.

As originally envisioned, the bullet train might have met the requirement, but to quiet stiff opposition on the San Francisco Peninsula, project managers devised a "blended system" that merges high-speed service with local commuter rail.

The bullet train folks have theorized that a blended system could meet the 160-minute standard, but it's based on assumptions that defy common sense.

It's time for a backspace-delete. Brown should acknowledge that the project as now planned is doomed and either kill it or go back to the voters with a revision that includes realistic routes and costs and lays out how it will be financed.

If it's worth doing - a debatable point - it's worth doing right and not with legal sleight-of-hand and pie-in-the-sky financing.

Dan Walters is a columnist for the Sacramento Bee. Scripps Howard News Service
Source..sfgate

 

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