The construction of the standard gauge railway may not meet the set deadline as irregularities in design and safety concerns last month forced the supervising consultants to suspend work on all bridges and culverts on the 471km railway route.
The Nation has established that the contractor, China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), has been working on the project without drawings and designs approved by local authorities and engineers.
The drawings are labelled and annotated in Chinese, which means that even if local engineers are physically present on the site, they have largely been spectators with little decision-making powers.
In a letter dated March 9, TSDI-APEC-EDON Consortium â€“ the group tasked to supervise the rail project â€” raised several concerns over the design, safety and cost of the decisions being made by CRBC.
â€œDuring our inspection it was confirmed that you have proceeded in full swing to construct culverts without reinforcement for the base slabs and walls.
â€œThere is also lack of consistency in the sense that some of the culverts are reinforced while others are not,â€ reads the letter, which is addressed to the Deputy General Manager at CRBC, Mr Hu Zhaoguang.
PROPER DESIGN CODES
The contractor also several times failed to submit documents indicating that the proper design codes had been followed in the construction of culverts and bridges, especially in the sections where the railway will intersect with major roads and highways.
Engineers supervising the project said in the letter that they could not confirm whether the overpasses and underpasses were being designed in accordance with codes provided by relevant road authorities and county governments, where necessary.
A junior engineer working for the consortium at one of the sites on the Mombasa-Nairobi line told the Nation that he felt his presence at the site is just a formality because he has not been doing any work.
â€œThe directors at the Consortium donâ€™t seem to mind that the Chinese are over-stepping the consultants and dealing directly with Kenya Railways and the Ministry of Transport.
â€œIn fact, we have been sent here to assist the Chinese and â€˜do as they commandâ€™,â€ said the engineer who cannot be named as he is not cleared to speak to the Press.
Mr James Karanja, the deputy team leader at the consortium confirmed to the Nation that the issues raised in the letter had led to the suspension of work on culverts and bridges until they were addressed.
But he added that these were normal miscommunication problems for any project and in the month since the letter was sent to the contractor, CRBC and the consortium have held a series of meetings to resolve the matter.
â€œAs we speak, about 90 per cent of the design drawings have been translated from Chinese to English so that they can be understood by our local Engineers.
â€œBut the railway is designed using the Chinese Standard Class 1 Code because CRBC is an EPC contractor,â€ he explained.