Young Kenyan John Pius says it is a great honor to have the chance to drive a modern train, and the training and mentorship by Chinese experts has paved the way for him to achieve this feat.
NAIROBI, May 24 (Xinhua) — John Pius grew up in a rural hamlet in southeastern Kenya that winds its way over a century-old meter gauge railway. – remote destinations.
In February, he joined the ranks of Kenya’s first independent locomotive engineers and shuttled the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) passenger train which runs along the 120km Nairobi-Suswa line which was launched on October 16. 2019.
In 2016, the 32-year-old mechanical engineering student began training for a crash course as a locomotive engineer a year before the launch of the China-built 480km Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway (SGR). Pius was placed under the tutelage of a Chinese expert, who taught him the basics of commuting a modern passenger train, as part of efforts to promote the transfer of Chinese-Kenyan technical skills.
John Pius drives a train in Nairobi, Kenya, March 25, 2022. (Xinhua/Long Lei)
In a recent interview with Xinhua, Pius said that thanks to the Chinese expert’s rigorous training, he feels competent enough to drive the SGR locomotives, praised for revolutionizing travel and trade in Kenya.
“Having been with the Chinese trainers since 2016, I learned useful skills like driving the locomotive, dealing with breakdowns and how to interact with people,” Pius said.
According to Pius, two passenger trains and one freight train run daily along the Nairobi-Suswa line, all hauled by local drivers who have received training from Chinese technicians.
“I’m happy to be among the first independent engine drivers. Even my family is happy. They’re happy that the management of SGR gave me this chance,” said Pius.
So far, there are ten independent drivers along the Nairobi-Suswa SGR corridor, evenly split for passenger and freight train services, according to Pius.
He revealed that four other local self-employed drivers are accused of transporting goods to the inland container depot near the resort town of Naivasha, about 100 km northwest of Nairobi, the Kenyan capital.
Pius said he felt it was a great honor to have the chance to drive a modern train, noting that the Chinese expert’s training and mentorship paved the way for achieving the feat.
“It’s a golden opportunity,” said Pius, adding that he learned the theoretical and practical aspects of driving a modern locomotive.
Hellen Mugogwa, a kindergarten teacher who accompanied young children on a holiday trip to Suswa, was in jovial mood as John Pius steered the locomotive along the scenic corridor, adding that she was confident in the skill of the local drivers.
Brian Kemboi, an assistant locomotive engineer along the Nairobi-Suswa SGR Corridor, felt that the training he has been undergoing since 2018 under the guidance of a Chinese instructor has adequately prepared him for the demanding task facing him. waits. The 28-year-old electrical engineering major confessed his dream of one day commuting with locomotives was nurtured at a young age, after seeing them pass through his home village in northwest Kenya.
Brian Kemboi checks the engine as the train runs in Nairobi, Kenya, March 25, 2022. (Xinhua/Long Lei)
Kemboi began training to become an engine driver in 2018, through a partnership between China Road and Bridge Corporation and his former college, the Rift Valley Technical Institute.
“The training is quite intensive. It involves theory and how to fix a technical fault, safety is also a key element,” said Kemboi who has been acting as a freelance assistant driver for the Nairobi-Suswa passenger train since February. .
He said the experience in the locomotive cab had been thrilling, stressing that he was looking forward to mastering all the skills of commuting along the Nairobi-Suswa scenic route.
According to Kemboi, even passengers along the Nairobi-Suswa corridor have expressed confidence in the ability of young independent locomotive drivers.
Kevin Saruni, a 27-year-old businessman and a regular passenger on the Nairobi-Suswa rail service, said the local drivers proved competent enough to steer the locomotive, with zero accidents and smooth journeys.
“Since the local drivers took over the Nairobi-Suswa passenger train shuttle, I can honestly say that they have lived up to my expectations. The rides are smooth and comfortable,” Saruni said.
On average, independent locomotive drivers underwent mandatory intensive six-month training, followed by close supervision by Chinese technicians for years in the cab before they were allowed to commute on their own with modern rail service in February.
John Pius (front) and Brian Kemboi pose for a group photo on a train in Kajiado, Kenya, March 25, 2022. (Xinhua/Long Lei)
John Mungai, a 31-year-old mechanical engineering student, said the Nairobi-Suswa freight service shuttle since February was the realization of a long-cherished dream. Mungai admitted that the training by the Chinese instructor was good, thanks to his background as an engineer, noting that he did not encounter any accidents while shuttling the freight locomotive.
“At least the training has made it easy for me to handle the huge responsibility. So far, I have been able to deliver containers to Naivasha Inland Container Depot without major hitch,” Mungai said, adding that thanks to the training he is able to handle security issues at ease and the location of SGR operations have benefited local youth in terms of jobs and skills acquisition. ■