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Chinese-built railway turns tourist attractions in Kenya

Huge concrete pillars, the seemingly unending tracks and nicely-built stations of a Chinese-built railway are becoming new tourist attractions in Kenya, known for its sandy beaches and wildlife parks. Only last week, Kenyans sing and dance beside one of the first batch of locomotives for the Mombasa-Nairobi standard gauge railway in Mombasa.

Stretching from the Mombasa port to the capital Nairobi, the first phase of the standard gauge railway is yet to be completed but has already attracted throngs to get a glimpse.

The railway is the biggest infrastructure project in Kenya since its independence and will replace a track built 100 years ago during British colonial rule.

Earlier this week, Kenya received from China the first batch of six locomotives, which will run on the railway line.The locomotives are expected to attract more interest from Kenyans once testing on the rail begins.

The railway will cut the journey time from Nairobi to Mombasa to 4 to 5 hours from the current 10 hours. Tourism stakeholders say the railway will be a major boost to tourism by offering comfortable travel and easy connectivity.

“The railway line will link beach and safari tourism and make the products exciting for local and international tourists,” Sam Ikwaye, the Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers’s branch official at the Coast, said in a recent interview.

Henry Wandera, a Nairobi-based economics lecturer, said that Kenyans were finding the railway line an attraction as it is the first time many Kenyans witnessed a rail line being constructed. The Mombasa-Nairobi railway is expected to begin trial operation in June and to officially open by the beginning of 2018.

The country’s old railway was built when more than half of the current population had not been born, and over three-quarters of them have never used it. “The new standard gauge railway line offers many a chance to not only see its construction but boarding a train,” Wandera said.

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