The Chinese-built Mombasa-Nairobi railway makes its inaugural ride, replacing a hundred-year old system famous for the lions which once terrorized its workers. Matthew Larotonda reports.
Kenya celebrating the debut of a brand new $3.2 billion rail line almost entirely funded by China. A new era for both countries, as China expands a multi-billion dollar series of projects aimed at upgrading trade routes through Eurasia and Africa. SOUNDBITE (English) NEIL WILSON, SENIOR MARKET ANALYST, ETX CAPITAL, SAYING: "I think the railway in Africa, in Kenya, is a fantastic example of how China is is starting to take control of global trade as we see the U.S. take a step back with Donald Trump." The new system replaces a notorious rail line nicknamed the "Lunatic Express". Decaying at over a hundred years old, thousands are thought to have died in its construction during British colonial rule. But it did become an economic lifeline for Kenya. And the new railway is hoped to push it much further. SOUNDBITE (English) REUTERS REPORTER, DUNCAN MIRIRI, SAYING: "The reason why this line has been built is that the government believes modern transport systems are essential for economic growth, helping to lower the cost of moving goods and even people. It also helps the cheaper tariffs will help attract new industries as investors look to take advantage." President Kenyatta intervened frequently to smooth out bureaucratic hurdles during development. The Freedom Express, named for Kenya's independence day, June 1st, was completed over two years ahead of schedule. SOUNDBITE (English) REUTERS REPORTER, DUNCAN MIRIRI, SAYING: "The Mombasa - Nairobi line is just the first phase and it is 470 kilometres. There are plans to extend it to the near Russia before taking it to the border town of Uganda Malaba, Uganda will then construct another line to Kampala before moving on to Rwanda and Burundi." The new system is also a political flashpoint. Opposition parties have accused President Kenyatta's ruling party of inflating its cost and misappropriating funds. A common allegation in a country where government corruption is widespread.