Kenya railways MD Mainga drives railway growth and revival.


When Philip Mainga was confirmed as managing director of Kenya Railways Corporation in January, he knew he had a daunting task ahead.

An insider, Mainga had headed the corporation since August 2018 in an acting capacity.

He is a Star Person of the Year for his contributions to the SGR, for reviving and expanding the country’s dormant railway network and pushing Nairobi’s commuter rail system.

Mainga acquired a wealth of experience as he had been general manager for business operations. He played a critical role in putting SGR Phase 1 into operation in 2017 as well as freight services that started on January 1, 2018.

His three-year term as MD will end in February 2026.

Taking over the corner office at the KRC headquarters set him on an ambitious track of consolidating SGR operations and reviving the country’s railway network.

“When I came to the office, we were doing SGR Phase 2A, Nairobi to Naivasha,” the soft-spoken but assertive Mainga explained.

He oversaw the start of operations for both passenger and freight services to the Suswa substation and the Naivasha Inland Container Depot.

His focus then shifted to what is set to become one of the government’s great revival projects – resurrecting the country’s expansive railway operations that had remained dormant for more than two decades.

This includes restoring and refurbishing the old railway line between Naivasha and Malaba, as well as linking it with the SGR.

This will ensure a seamless rail system for both passengers and cargo between Mombasa and Malaba. The initiative is expected to stimulate the economy as well as ease cargo movement to neighbouring landlocked countries using the Port of Mombasa.

Mainga has given expensive contractors a wide berth, ensuring refurbishment of these railway lines is achieved at minimal cost.

For instance, for the Nairobi-Nanyuki line, the contractor had quoted Sh18 billion but was done with Sh1.8 billion.

Kisumu route was quoted at Sh20 billion but KRC, using its internal engineers and local labour, is refurbishing it for about Sh3 billion.

Another success story for Mainga is the upgrading of the city railway system, modernisation of services and running the Diesel Multiple-Units trains.

KRC is operating five trains with six more expected from Spain in January.

This, together with the old trains, has changed the city’s transport system that for years experienced heavy road traffic and gridlock.

The corporation has also implemented a Bus Rapid Transit system offering last-mile connectivity to different parts of the city, including JKIA. It is served by an express train from the city centre.

Within a year, KRC has rehabilitated more than 800km of rail.

Apart from project implementation, Mainga is leading a spirited fight to recover KRC assets worth billions.

Most of it is land was grabbed during past governments when railway operations went down.

With support from the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, the corporation has recovered more than 50 title deeds for vast parcels in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu and Nakuru.

It has recovered assets, including a building, worth more than Sh1 billion in Nairobi.

“We are taking back our assets that were neglected and grabbed. Those who illegally acquired these assets should know that we are coming for them,” Mainga warned.

While there is no journey without challenges, one of Mainga’s uphill tasks was taking back the metre gauge railway operations from Rift Valley Railways. He started the move when he was in charge of business and operations.

It saw KRC resume operations on the 100-year-old line, with all the workers from RVR transferred to the corporation.

“That was one of the biggest challenges,” Mainga said. “It was a government asset that was being mismanaged and misused and we had to get it back,” he said.

“It is one of the best things when I look back. I enjoy it because there is nothing like seeing a government asset being revived and bringing back employment and investments that were lost in different parts of this country.”Mainga added.

He attributes his success to support from President William Ruto,Transport Cs Kipchumba Murkomen and the “very supportive” KRC board and staff.

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