Residents of Karen in Nairobi are up in arms over the new Sh1.2 billion Riruta-Ngong’ Commuter Railway Line project, citing a lack of public participation.

The 12.5km railway line, commissioned by President William Ruto in December 2023, is designed to traverse Riruta, Karen, Bulbul, and Ngong, with the aim of transporting 10,000 people daily upon completion.

A public participation meeting held on Friday at St Christopher's International School, Karen exposed the deep rift between residents and authorities concerning the new Sh1.2 billion Riruta-Ngong’ Commuter railway line and turned heated, with residents of Karen threatening to take legal action to halt the project.

The Karen Langata District Association chairman, Sikalieh Samora, emphasized that the residents' presence did not signify endorsement of the project.

He demanded adherence to the law and residents' rights, warning against a rubber-stamp approach to public participation.

Kenya Railways Technical Services general manager, Eng Tobias Otieno, defended the project's necessity, explaining the need to extend existing lines to serve unserved areas.

He outlined plans for line 8, which would connect Dagoreti to Ngong, Kiserian, and Ongata Rongai, ultimately creating a loop with the existing SGR line.

Otieno highlighted the project's benefits, including an integrated and efficient public transport system with park-and-ride facilities.

However, his revelation that construction had already begun in some sections and that China Roads and Bridge Corporation had been contracted for the project infuriated residents.

They questioned the legality of the project given the lack of proper consultation. Prof. Charles Maranga pointed out that the project seemed preordained, with consultations a mere formality.

The use of the Ngong Road median to minimize land acquisition and traffic disruption, while the line itself would be elevated in some areas with four stations, did little to appease residents.

The prospect of tree removal, albeit with replanting plans, and the potential impact on 7-15 private properties slated for acquisition with compensation, further fueled concerns.

Residents were particularly opposed to the use of diesel-powered engines, arguing against outdated technology.

The explanations provided by the authorities, including a planned air pollution baseline study, failed to convince them.

The meeting ended on a tense note, with Assistant County Commissioner Adan Kerow expressing displeasure at the residents' criticism of state officials.

Residents, however, remained resolute in their demand for transparency and adherence to legal procedures.

The threat of legal action hangs heavy as Karen residents fight to have their voices heard regarding the Riruta-Ngong’ Commuter Railway Line project.