A parliamentary committee has said the Kenyan government should not force importers to use Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) in cargo clearance.

The Departmental Committee on Transport, Public Works and Housing also wants over Sh327 billion SGR loan renegotiated and Operation Agreement altered.

In effect, the cost of running SGR – paid by taxpayers to Africa Star Railway Operation Company at Sh1 billion monthly – should come down to “at least 50 per cent”.

Renegotiation is due to “prevailing economic distress occasioned by the global pandemic”, the committee says.

After months of inquiry into SGR use, the committee is calling for an “open, nondiscriminatory policy” in cargo transportation from Mombasa port.

Government orders on cargo evacuation at Mombasa port gave SGR monopoly, causing the inquiry.  The directives locked thousands of truckers from jobs and led to months of street protests in Mombasa last year.

“On clearance of cargo, importers should have the freedom to nominate a licensed Container Freight Station (CFS) company of their choice to clear their goods,” the committee’s report partly reads.

Government and independent calculations are showing SGR cannot repay its loan. And so, the parliamentary committee is directing that the money should not only come from freight or fare charges.

“Measures should be put in place for full utilization of Kenya Railway assets where income accrued from all idle KRC land and asset should be channelled to the Railway Development Fund to assist in raising revenue for the payment of SGR loan,” the committee recommends.

Read the full report here.