Kenya has an extensive transport network that spans rail, road, air and marine infrastructure. The country’s paved and unpaved roads, airports and a railway system links its ports and major cities world over

Perhaps the greatest indicator of the importance of transport to national and regional development is this multifaceted grand project that spans across all transport sub-sectors of road, rail, air and sea.

The project involves the development of a new transport corridor from the new port of Lamu through Garissa, Isiolo, Mararal, Lodwar and Lokichoggio to branch at Isiolo to Ethiopia and Southern Sudan.

This will comprise a new road network, a railway line, oil refinery at Lamu, oil pipeline, Isiolo and Lamu Airports and a free port at Lamu (Manda Bay) in addition to resort cities at the Coast and in Isiolo. It will be the backbone for opening up northern Kenya and integrating it into the national economy.

The Lamu Port and South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) Corridor project has already been launched. Presidents Mwai Kibaki and Salva Kiir of South Sudan were joined by Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi (now deceased) for the formal ground breaking ceremony in Lamu on March 2, 2012.

The governments signed a memorandum of understanding for the proposed railway and pipeline.

The feasibility study and design of the transport corridor was funded by the World Bank for which corridor components and the design of three berths and associated facilities in Lamu were subsequently completed.

Lamu Port

To kick off the grand project is the construction of the initial three berths of the planned 32 berths at the modern port of Lamu. The port will be three times the size of current Mombasa port at the more sheltered Manda Bay that is also large and deep enough to accommodate huge vessels.

The three berths are designed to handle 30,000 Dead Weight Tonnage (DWT) and 100,000 DWT for general and bulk and container cargo respectively. The development of the berths is crucial for importation of building materials for the other project components.

The Kenya government has set aside Kshs2 billion for the construction of the three berths. Completion of the Lamu Port headquarters is expected by the end of 2013.

The second phase of construction of the port, which includes police lines and staff houses, is expected to be completed in June 2014.

Lamu-South Sudan-Ethiopia road

The design for the LAPSSET highway components provide for a heavy transportation route from Lamu to South Sudan through Garissa, Isiolo, Kisima and Nginyang to meet the existing Kenya-Sudan road at Lokichar.

The Lamu-Isiolo-Lokichar -Lodwar-Nadapal section measures 1,256km and the Northern Branch of the corridor to Ethiopia from Isiolo link measures some 470km, thus the total length of the LAPSSET road corridor is approximately 1,730km.

1,500km standard gauge railway

Steam-engineA railway line from Lamu to Nakodok, South Sudan, totalling 1,500 kilometres, is also planned.

The standard gauge railway system, which Kenya is about to also adopt with a new line from Mombasa to Malaba on the Uganda border, is also called the international or narrow gauge in some instances. The distance between the inside edges of the rails is usually 1,435mm (4 feet, 81/2 inches).

Standard gauge system has numerous technical and commercial advantages over the broad gauge currently in place in Kenya. One of them is that since the standard gauge is the most widely used system globally, with more than 60 per cent of the world using it, it gives a more competitive option to select imported equipment, such as coaches and spare parts.

The four feet 8.5 inches wide standard gauge coaches are also lighter and only slightly smaller than the five feet six inches wide broad gauge coaches, which means they can move faster, yet carry almost the same load as the broad gauge coaches.