SGR Kenya, Opens Up Opportunities For Female Drivers

By Pauline Kairu

female drivers

Just after 8:30am, the signal for our train turns to green.

It is clear and we can roll out of the Nairobi Railway Station.

The engine driver turns the power to the engines on then disengages the brakes.

It is a chilly Sunday morning and Shalom Njeri is wearing a stiff face. Not because she is cold or unhappy.

Rather, it is all thanks to the level of diligent concentration that the job at hand demands of her.


Njeri and Elizabeth Wanjala are the two train drivers manning the 1,590-passenger train.

The duo is part of an eight-women team that will make up the 65 drivers who will be on the frontline, responsible for ensuring that the trips made on the standard gauge railway (SGR) are safe.

Barely looking up from the control console, Njeri’s gaze almost only darts between the console and the rail in front.

She will occasionally pick up the phone hanging near the door to talk to the signaller back at the station, and that is just about it.

In fact, we have to pause our interview after we are warned about distracting her.

Contrary to popular thinking that the SGR trains, being more advanced than the current ones, may be computerised, things here are still relatively hands-on.


Instead of one, there are two braking systems, and the maximum speed on the SGR locomotive is 132 kilometres per hour.

“The limit for us though is 120kph,” Njeri explains as she finally settles down for the interview.

“Anyway, we must drive at the set speed.” The driver’s cabin is open, spacious and airy.

The main controls on the console include the all-important ‘dead man’s handle’ — which must be manually held for the train to move.

Every now and then there’s a beep and the driver has to press the dead man’s device, which checks that she has not died (literally) midway through the journey.


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