By Rachel Keino
Athi River an industrial town situated in the East Southern part of Kenya’s Capital city of Nairobi is poised to earn a place in the world map of infrastructure marvels that will come with the
Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway project currently under construction.
The town’s population mainly derive their livelihoods from employment the cement, steel, aluminum and various other sorts of industries as well as small and medium business enterprises that dot the busy suburb. Many others who have built or rented houses in the area travel to their work or business places in Nairobi, Machakos, Kitengela. The residents go about their daily activities oblivious of the on going development that is about to stir their backyards. Esther Nzioki, wakes up every morning to attend to the customers who bring their clothes to be mended. As she peddles her sewing machine, the roar of bigger machinery punctuates the serenity that is synonymous with her Kwa Mang’eli estate at the banks of Mbagathi River. She glances towards the rumbling noise and quickly reverts to complete a jacket a client is waiting for her to fix.
Esther’s new neighbor, is a monster crane hoisting and positioning a percussion driller set to dig up the foundation of one of the 78 piers to support the beams of the bridge the contractor is putting up at Section 5 of the SGR project.
Spanning 2.6 kilometres, with a possible extension to accommodate movement of animals in Nairobi National Park, The Athi River Super Major Bridge will carry the rail traffic from Mombasa road shortly after the Kenya Meat Commission all the way to cross the Athi River Namanga road into the park near the Eastern Gate.
When complete, the bridge will be in the world’s category of bridges measuring above two (2) kilometres in length and one of the longest in Africa dislodging Armando Emilio Guebuza Bridge in Mozambique from number 6 (six) at 2.37km. The 6th October Bridge across River Nile in Cairo, Egypt, hold the trophy at 20.5km , Third mainland Bridge in Lagos, Nigeria is the Second longest at 10.5km and Suez Canal Bridge also in Egypt is number three at 3.9km. Others are Mozambique Island Bridge, 3.8km and Dona Ana Bridge, 3.67km taking position four and five respectively.
About 10 percent of the project is complete, according Christian Odhiambo Akuku from APEC, the Consulting Engineering firm supervising the construction works.
About 400 worker recruited from all over the country are involved in the development while armed personnel from the Kenya Police Service offer round the clock security protection. Odhiambo and Civil Engineering graduate join fellow engineers and technical staff from Kenya Railways and China Roads and Bridges Corporation at the construction site every day to ensure no detail is left out. He credits his specialized structural engineering training at Moi University for his ability to interpret and communicate the project’s technical drawings to be deliver a project of such magnitude.
Launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta in November 2013, the $13 .8 billion Chinese funded Standard Gauge Railway project is geared to transform the surface transport infrastructure landscape and accelerate the economic integration of the East and East Africa region.