Major Railways in Kenya

ElyaDatabase ID Number: M183

Creator: Cal Branning ’21 International Relations

This map accurately shows the route and location of the main operational railways in Kenya, including the first and second phase of the Chinese-funded SGR line, and the remaining British-built narrow-gage lines. Shown on the map in red is the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway, which began service in 2017. This railway connects the capital city of Nairobi to the port of Mombasa on the Indian Ocean and has significantly decreased the travel time between these two cities that were previously connected by the “Lunatic Line”. Financing for the project was finalized in 2014 with China Eximbank funding 90% of the project through a loan, and the Kenyan government covering the remaining 10%. Construction of the project was begun later in 2014 and finished in 2017, costing roughly $3.6 billion, the most expensive infrastructure project in Kenya since its independence. Shown on the map in yellow is the second phase of the SGR, which is planned to complete the original route of the “Lunatic Line”, and will stretch from Nairobi to Kisumu, on Lake Victoria. Estimated to cost around $5.3 billion, the construction for this phase of the railway began in 2018 and the first section of it, connecting Nairobi to Naivasha, has already been completed. As with the first phase, the funding for this railroad came almost entirely from Eximbank. Shown on the map in black are the various narrow-gauge railways that were built by the British during the colonial period and are now operated by Rift Valley Railways. These railways are old and in disrepair but are still operated by freight lines. It is possible that a future Chinese-funded project will look to develop these old railroads.

Map Sources:

Xioatian, Sun. “Chinese FDI: A Study of the Impact of Chinese Infrastructure Investments in Kenya, Africa.” Columbia University Libraries, 2015, (p. 21). 

Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway Project. Railway Technology, 8 Dec. 2020,

Barasa, Lucas (2018). “Nairobi-Naivasha Standard Gauge Rail 70 Percent Done: Government”. Business Daily Africa. Nairobi.

“Did Kenya Get a Loan to Build a Railway, or Vice Versa?” The Economist, The Economist Newspaper,

Cite This Work :

Cal Branning, “Major Railways in Kenya.” Scale: 1:20,000,000. In Elya J. Zhang, ed., Mapping History Series. <> (accessed May 27, 2022).

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