Kenya’s Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) is playing a role in mitigating the spread of COVID-19, Official with the SGR Operator said Monday.

The last four months have seen a steep rise in the amount of bulk goods transported by rail as opposed to trucking, said Virginia Munyao, Communication Adviser of Africa Star Railway Operation Company (Afristar), the Operator of the SGR.

“Due to containment measures, truckers must undergo mandatory COVID-19 checkups before proceeding their journeys. This requirement has been a major contributing factor to delays being experienced,” Munyao said.

She noted that for greater efficiency, there is a need for complementarity between the SGR and the trucking industry.

“Notably, the latter can leverage last-mile transportation by re-engineering their business to take advantage of the integrated transport spearheaded by the SGR,” Munyao said.

Taking cognizance of the need to ensure uninterrupted operations during the cessation of movement embargo, Afristar has continued to operate the SGR freight services normally, buoyed by the increased inflow of COVID-19 supplies, she said.

“This has been achieved through the deployment of transport, locomotive, rolling stock, track and signalling staff to work during the pandemic period,” Munyao said.

By June 30, the SGR operator had transported over 196,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs). These include 4,633 TEUs of dangerous goods, 4,224 TEUs of grain and 86 TEUs of essential COVID-19 prevention materials such as disinfectants, ethyl and alcohol, she said.

Afristar has operated 52 freight trains to the Naivasha Inland Container Depot transporting 2,494 TEUs destined for Uganda and other east African countries, Munyao said.

“This has played a role in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 through road transport, underscoring the advantages of rail transport over trucking,” she said.

The Chinese-built SGR has been an important fruit that came out of the Chinese Belt & Road Initiative and the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation Summit held in Johannesburg, South Africa, in late 2015.