Currently Kenya has 2,778 km of rail network which makes railway transport the second most important mode of transport in Kenya, after road transport, for both freight and passenger services. It is suitable for transporting bulky and heavy commodities over long distances. Currently, Rift Valley Railways and Magadi Railways (MR) offer rail transport operations in Kenya with MR operating the line between Konza and Magadi (146 km) on behalf of the Magadi Soda Company Ltd. while Rift Valley Railways (RVR) operate the rest under concession based on leases of locomotives from KRC.
In the early 1970’s the East African Railways Corporation (EARC), KRC’s predecessor, was the largest public sector enterprise and reputedly one of the best managed. It was the predominant carrier of freight traffic between Mombasa and Nairobi, and almost had a monopoly of long distance traffic into Uganda. Following the collapse (in 1977) of the former East African Community (EAC) under which it operated, each member state became responsible for the railway network and operations within its territory; hence the establishment of , Kenya Railways Corporation in 1978 through an Act of Parliament. It was formed to provide transport services to serve the country and the region. The total railway network currently consists of 2,778 km comprising 1083 km of mainline, 346 km of principle lines, 490 km of minor and branch lines and 859 km of private lines and sidings. Over the last ten years, the railway has not been expanded, with the exception of 38 km of private line.
The late 1980s and early 1990s witnessed donor assistance in an attempt to commercialize the management and operations of Kenya Railway Corporation . An attempt to implement a performance contract between Kenya Railways Corporation and the Government of Kenya never materialized. While some measure of commercial autonomy was achieved, the effectiveness of KRC management to deliver efficient rail services had declined substantially. Kenya Railways Corporation’s performance over the years also declined due to motive power and rolling stock capacity constraints caused by inadequate funding. As a result, Kenya Railways Corporation was unable to meet its traffic demand, losing most of its traffic to road transport.
The Government of Kenya and Kenya Railways Corporation, under a concession agreement, leased the management and operation of railway services to RVR for 25 years and the operation and management of passenger services for 5 years from the Commencement Date of the Concession. This concession has not produced the desired results in terms of improved performance of rail transport and needs a review.