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China trains Kenyan women train drivers

XI’AN (Xinhua) -- Carolyne Karugo and six other young women from Kenya have obtained their assistant train driver course certificates after a 50-day training in northwest China’s Shaanxi Province.

The seven, who got their certificates on Monday, are the first group of African female train drivers trained in China and are expected to start work in June when a rail line that links Kenya’s capital Nairobi with the port city of Mombasa opens.

The standard gauge railway stretching 480 km was designed for passenger trains running 120 km per hour and freight trains at 80 km per hour.

China financed 90 percent of the 3.8 billion U.S. dollar project, with work being carried out by the China Roads and Bridges Corporation (CRBC). Construction on the railway began in January 2015.

Being a key construction project under the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, the railway is the first new rail line built in Kenya in a century.

Before going to China, Carolyne, 26, was a tour guide in Kenya. She  speaks fluent Chinese after attending the Confucius Institute in Nairobi and studying in north China’s Tianjin Municipality as an exchange student.

“A female train driver is more careful and will take more care of a train,” said Carolyne.

After the training, Carolyne said she had fully grasped operation standards, driving skills, as well as the overhaul and maintenance procedures of a China-made locomotive.

The training was co-organized by a railway technician college in Shaanxi, and the Southwest Jiaotong University.

As part of the project, the CRBC said that a batch of 60 freight trains had been transported to Mombasa. Seven Chinese teachers specializing in railway engineering have also left for Nairobi to conduct technical training for local railway personnel.

Figures show the railway project has created more than 38,000 jobs, 90 percent for local people.

“There is an old saying in China that if you teach a man how to fish it is better than to just give him a fish. We will not only build a railway, but also train local employees and impart the latest technology, which is our promise to the Kenyan people,” said an official with the CRBC branch office in Kenya.

China has helped African countries to build their railways for many years.

The Tanzania-Zambia Railway (TAZARA) is a single-track railway in east Africa, built in the 1970s with the assistance of China.

“The ‘Chinese railway’ brand is popular in Africa. One of the reasons is that China has advanced railway construction technology, and Chinese teams are willing to teach African people the technology, which in turn helps them find jobs, increase income and improve living quality,” said Yang Xiangzhen, an online commentator. 

China has developed the world’s largest high-speed rail network in just a decade, drastically shortening travel times for otherwise gruesome cross-country trips. The high-speed rail line has reached 20,000 km and a further 10,000 km will be added by 2020, linking more than 80 percent of China’s big cities.

Acnes Mwagagi, one of the seven female train drivers, said that earlier it took her 20 hours to reach Nairobi from her home near Mombasa, but now the journey will be cut to just four hours. 

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