The Chinese company currently running the Standard Gauge Railway has set a date to fully surrender the operations of the railway project to the Kenyan government.
The Chinese firm, Africa Star Railway Operations Company (Afristar), has maintained that it will surrender the operation to Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) in May 2022.
This decision has been informed by the latest steps by Kenya Railways in equipping its staff with skills and relevant expertise to assume the roles that are currently being run by Chinese officials.
The operations have undergone systematic integration with the staff expressing confidence that is capable of taking over the running of the SGR from the Chinese.
"I am confident of localising the operations and management of SGR due to the organised systematic training that has empowered Kenyans to accomplish duties independently," the Chinese company noted.
The workers have also stated how they have acquired commensurate skills to enable them fully take charge of SGR operations.
"I have independently driven the locomotive for over 140,000 kilometers," one of the SGR captain's stated.
Kenya Railways Managing Director, Philip Mainga, stated that so far 2,000 employees are Kenyans and the transition will see more locals brought on board.
The contract between KRC and Afristar included a provision for the revision or termination of the contract every five years.
Afristar, which is owned by China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), a subsidiary of the majority Chinese state-owned China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), was awarded a 10-year operation and maintenance contract for the 592km SGR by KRC in 2017.
Their contract to run SGR operations was to expire in 2027, but the latest decision sets a sigh of relief to Kenyans.
CRBC was the main contractor in the construction of the $US 3.2bn Mombasa – Nairobi section of the SGR while CCCC developed the 120km Nairobi – Naivasha SGR line at an estimated cost of $US 1.5bn. Both SGR sections were financed by the Exim Bank of China.
A Parliamentary transport committee report released in September recommended a programme of reforms to reduce losses on the line, including the immediate renegotiation of operating costs with Afristar, which it said should be reduced by 50%. It is not currently clear whether Afristar will object to the termination proposal until the arrears are cleared.
This comes even as the country still remaining in the dark over the SGR contract.