Dec 5, 2016: The construction of a Chinese-built railway in Kenya has entered its final phase. Kenyan officials and observers are suggesting the project will significantly add to the country's economic growth prospects once it is operational in 2018. Civil engineering work is set to be completed in a few weeks on the first Standard Gauge Railway connecting the Kenyan capital Nairobi and East Africa's largest port, Mombasa. Once the railway is fully operational by January 2018, the travel time between the two cities will be cut from more than ten hours down to four. The 472-kilometer railway is being built by the China Road and Bridge Corporation. The Export-Import Bank of China is financing 90 percent of the 3.8-billion-dollar cost. Solomon Ouna, an engineer for the railway, says the bank's financing plan stood out from a number of competitors. "There are many financing models that were considered for the project but it's only when we got onto Exim Bank of China that we found it sustainable because they were able to give us sufficient funds to do a whole commercially viable section." Construction of the Nairobi-Mombasa rail began back in late 2013. It is part of a larger Standard Gauge Railway Project connecting Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan. Analysts are suggesting the rail links will open up tremendous business opportunities not just for Kenya but also its neighboring countries, as inland Africa will now be linked to Mombasa's ports. Those ports service both Europe and the Middle East. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta says he considers the railway a vital part of his plans to grow Kenya's economy. AtanasMaina, managing director of Kenya Railways, says the local economy can expect many beneficial ripple effects from the rail link. "You have investors coming on board to position themselves here, to invest here because the cost of production and the cost of transport and logistics has gone lower, they will come and relocate their industries here, they will create employment, their final products are produced at a lower cost, those products are consumed by locals." The first trains to service the railway are due to arrive in January, with test runs expected to start by June. Currently, over 400 people are being trained to service the railway in both Kenya and China.

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