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FEATURE STORYJanuary 26, 2023

Japanese experts share knowledge on resilient rail services in Kenya

Resilient Urban Railway Workshop
Nairobi, Kenya
January 26-27, 2023

Urban accessibility is an overwhelming challenge in the large cities of Kenya, particularly in the Nairobi Metropolitan Area (NMA), which as of 2019 has a population of 6.6 million. Due to rapid urbanization, there is a pressing need to improve urban transport and mobility in NMA to be able to advance economic and social development. Currently, the railway is the only formal and regulated public transport service available in the NMA, yet it accounts for only one percent of the modal share. [1The Government of Kenya has prioritized the improvement of commuter rail services to address the current mobility challenges, and Japanese experts are supporting these efforts by sharing their experiences and knowledge around urban railway operations.

With support from the GFDRR Japan-World Bank Program for Mainstreaming Disaster Risk Management in Developing Countries (the Japan Program), two Japanese railway experts were invited to Nairobi to share their knowledge around railway operations including increasing resilience in the face of a changing climate. Participants included more than 40 representatives from Kenya Railway Corporation (KRC); officials from the Ministry of Roads and Transport; the Ministry of Land, Housing and Urban Development, and Public Works; the Nairobi Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (NaMATA); representatives from county governments in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, and Eldoret; and the Council of Governors joined the Resilient Urban Railway Workshop. Led by Urban Transport Specialists from the World Bank’s Kenya Urban Mobility Improvement Project (KUMIP) and other specialists from the World Bank, interactive technical sessions were designed to share how the Japanese made commuter rails more resilient while highlighting how these lessons are applicable to NMA railways.

Representatives from the Kenyan Government join a technical session.
Representatives from the Kenyan Government join a technical session.

[1] Japan International Cooperation Agency/Nairobi County, 2014.


On behalf of the Principal Secretary, Mr. Mohamed Daghar from the Ministry of Road and Transport, Mr. James Theuri, Engineer and National Project Coordinator for the Ministry, opened the workshop with the following remarks:

“I am genuinely pleased to see such a broad range of stakeholders involved in various aspects of managing urban transport gathered here and eager to learn best practice in maximizing the meagre resources in advancing development of efficient urban transport in particular urban rail. The objective of this workshop is to equip participants with relevant technical skills necessary for development of resilient railway systems and operations, focusing on the six broad topics. They assume significance, as hundreds of urban commuting population in many of the urban centers in the country face extreme mobility challenges due to inadequate public transport services including urban commuter railway.”

On the first day, a Japanese railway expert shared their business model which is based on Transit-Oriented Development (TOD), the Japanese urban planning principle that promotes urban development along transit stations, which has practical applications relevant for NMA. Another Japanese railway expert, Mr. Noriaki Nakayama made a presentation describing methods used for financing and funding urban railways, highlighting the integrated fare collection system used by a prominent private railway company in Japan.

On day two, Japanese expert, Dr. Masafumi Ota, spoke about topics ranging from TOD achievements in Japan to railway operation and asset management, and how to establish resilient railways. The Government of Kenya and the Kenya Railway Corporation are keen to incorporate resilience into the design of new railway projects. Dr. Ota shared examples from Japan about building resilience into planning. For example, when developing plans for new railways, regularly updating these plans with relevant disaster information helps mitigate future damage caused by climate change. The presentations and following interactive discussions provided participants from the Kenyan Government the opportunity to discuss how the Japanese experience can be successfully applied to NMA.

Senior Urban Transport Specialist from the World Bank, Akiko Kishiue, stated:

“Considering the experience of, and lessons learned from Japanese railway experts, the Government of Kenya can refer to the integrated approach of connecting railway service/operation improvement and station area development. In bringing the private sector in station area development, it is necessary for national and local governments to have strong leadership and coordinate with various relevant stakeholders such as railway corporation. Furthermore, Kenya can learn how to integrate resilience into the Business Continuity Plan (BCP) for transport sector.”

Overall, the two-day technical workshop was very fruitful, supporting lively discussions related to commuter railway operations, land use, and the role of the local and national governments in railway station development. A post-workshop survey indicated participants were highly satisfied with all the presentations.

The World Bank together with the Japan Program will continue to support the Government of Kenya as they work to improve urban mobility and enhance the resilience of their transport sector.

Mr. Nakayama explains the role of the government and measures taken to mitigate damage from disasters in a TOD project near t
Mr. Nakayama explains the role of the government and measures taken to mitigate damage from disasters in a TOD project near the Tama River in Japan.


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