Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta inaugurated a Chinese-constructed railway, the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), in Mombasa on Wednesday, which is also the country’s largest infrastructure project since independence.
Kenyatta said the railway marks a new chapter in the history of Kenya.
The first passenger train of the 480km SGR Wednesday left Mombasa, the largest port in East Africa, at 11:10 a.m. local time for Kenya's capital, Nairobi, with the country’s president on board.
A train carries out a test run on Kenya's Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) on May 24, 2017. /Xinhua Photo
"Today, we celebrate the laying of one of the key cornerstones to Kenya's journey of transformation to an industrial, prosperous and middle-income country," Kenyatta said ahead of embarking on the inaugural trip, according to Xinhua News Agency.
The line has been developed for passengers and cargo transportation between Nairobi and Mombasa. It will shorten passengers' journey time from 10 hours to just four and a half, and decrease the time to transport cargo between the two cities from two days to eight hours.
The line will shorten passengers' journey time from 10 hours to just four and a half. /AFP Photo
The project cost 3.8 billion US dollars and 90 percent of the funding was from China. The construction of the SGR was initiated in December 2014 by the China Road and Bridge Corporation. According to the contract, the company will provide services including scheduling, maintenance, and personnel training for the next ten years.
It was made possible because of the close Sino-Kenya friendship, said Kenyatta.
"I want to thank our partner and true friend, China, for the support that has enabled the construction and completion of the project after only two and a half years," he said.
The Mtito Andei station on Kenya's Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway /Xinhua Photo
Chinese state councilor Wang Yong, who attended the launching ceremony as the special envoy of Chinese President Xi Jinping, described this line as early fruit that came out of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative and the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation summit held in Johannesburg, South Africa, in late 2015.
"The Mombasa-Nairobi SGR is an exemplary project of China-Africa cooperation on the construction of roads, railways, aviation networks and industrialization," Wang said.
The railway will bear great significance in promoting the development in Kenya and the region, speeding up Africa's industrialization process, and expanding the reach of the Belt and Road to more African countries, Wang added.
The Emali station on Kenya's Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway /Xinhua Photo
"China stands ready to work with Kenya to make the Mombasa-Nairobi railway a railway of prosperity and development for Kenya, and a new example of the transformation and upgrade of China-Africa cooperation," said Wang.
The completion of the SGR is considered a win-win achievement of China-Africa cooperation under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative.
People throw confetti at the port city of Mombasa on May 30, 2017 after Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta inaugurated a cargo train before its first journey to Nairobi. /AFP Photo
The launch came one day after the Kenyan leader launched the first SGR cargo service between the two cities. Passenger train trial operations will start on Thursday, while those of cargo trains will begin on August 1.