"We are done with the trial phase where we have been ferrying cargo of small commodities such as maize, rice and milk," he said, adding that the SGR trains were now ready for the haulage of container cargo. He further said that in the trial phase, they have been able to operate five trains daily laden with 108 twenty-foot equivalent containers between the port of Mombasa and the Inland Container Terminal in Nairobi.
Maina also announced that 1,300 Kenyans and 550 Chinese expatriates have completed training and were rearing to operationalise the freight commercial services. He said Kenya Railways had ordered 1,620 freight wagons and locomotives from China and has so far received 980 of them, and were able to begin commercial services without further delay.
The MD announced that once the freight trains had conducted their maiden trips, the daily trains plying Mombasa and Nairobi would be increased to 10 cargo trains per day. "In the end, we will be delivering 450, 000 containers per annum to the inland container terminal in Nairobi's Embakasi area," he said.
Maina said the train freight services would not interfere with the SGR daily passenger trains plying the 472-kilometre Mombasa-Nairobi route. He said Kenya Railways, Kenya Ports Authority, the Kenya Revenue Authority and the China Road and Bridge Corporation have completed developing the standard operating procedure for the freight services and that they were now 'good to go'.
"We are prevailing upon the shipping fraternity that sending cargo by train would be a lot faster and cheaper in the long run than doing so by road," he said. Maersk Line Shipping Company Managing Director Mads Skov Hansen welcomed the freight services saying it would in the long run bring down the cost of doing business in the region.