The Thika – Nanyuki Branch line is part of the Meter Gauge Railway (MGR) in Kenya. It has a direct route length of 177.2km. The Branch line was constructed in three phases namely; Nairobi to Thika, completed in 1913, Thika to NaroMoru, completed in 1927; and Naromoru to Nanyuki, completed in 1931.
The line was revitalized in 2020 after being in a moribund state for 14 years. The MGR branch line is a single track developed for mixed traffic (i.e. freight and passenger services). The branch line traverses six (6) counties; Nairobi, Kiambu, Murang’a, Kirinyaga, Nyeri and Laikipia County. Stations are located at; Nairobi, Makadara, Dandora, Kahawa, Ruiru, Kalimoni, Thika, Mitubiri, Makuyu, Maragua, Murang’a, Sagana, Karatina, Kiganjo, Chaka, Naromoru and Nanyuki.
The passenger train has gained immense popularity with passengers traveling to Nanyuki and areas along the route. The train, dubbed the Safari train, operates between Nairobi and Nanyuki, departing Nairobi on Fridays and returning on Sunday. The Safari train consists of first class and economy class coaches, charging as low as Ksh 200 for the economy class and Ksh. 1000 for first class passengers. Passengers can board and alight at any passenger station along the route.
The Thika – Nanyuki MGR freight train transports:
- Petroleum products from Mombasa to Nanyuki- VIVO Kenya has a fuel depot in Nanyuki which has a storage capacity of 11.5 million liters.
- Construction Materials such as cement, stones, steel and other hardware goods to Sagana, Karatina and Nanyuki.
- General Consumer Goods such as Sugar, household goods, crops and animal inputs from Nairobi to Sagana, Karatina and Nanyuki.
- Agricultural inputs such as planting seeds, animal feeds and fertilizer consigned by Kenya National Trading Corporation (KNTC), Kenya Farmers Association (KFA).
- Imported and local wheat, maize to millers in Thika, Sagana, Kiganjo, Nanyuki.
In the down-direction, the train transports:
- Wheat and maize to National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB), millers.
- Cattle from ranches to the revived Kenya Meat Commission, Nairobi slaughterhouses and for export market.
- Coffee to Kenya Plantations Cooperatives Union (KPCU).
The investment and subsequent provision of passenger and freight operations along the Thika-Nanyuki corridor generates the following gains:
- Offers affordable, safe and reliable mode of transport for passengers.
- Increased efficiency of production, lowering cost of doing business.
- Reorganization and rationalization of production, distribution and location of activities.
- Stimulating the inflow of new production investments.
- Enabling the development of new types of activities.
- Improvement in the spread of knowledge and innovation
The core product of the railway line not only offers transportation services, but also diversifies by leveraging on the related activities such as commercial property, or real estate development through the development of strategic logistics hubs. The design and presentation characteristics of the service generally covers:
- The integration of the Nairobi-Nanyuki line route with the rest of the MGR/SGR network;
- The operational reliability of the service (e.g. the service frequency, adherence to scheduled transit time, etc.);
- The security provided for consignments (e.g. against pilferage and damage);
- The convenience and efficiency of loading/unloading facilities at rail freight terminals;
- The availability of a convenient delivery service to the final destination (i.e. door-door delivery service).