Kenya’s transport ministry said on Wednesday that standard gauge railway passenger train services between Nairobi and Mombasa will resume next Monday amid new travel rules.
James Macharia, cabinet secretary of the ministry of transport, said the first Madaraka Express train will depart Nairobi at 8:00 a.m. on next Monday and is expected to arrive at the coastal city of Mombasa at 12:45.
Macharia said the train will then leave Mombasa for Nairobi at 1:25 p.m. and is expected back to Nairobi at 6:40 p.m. to enable passengers to reach their destinations before 9:00 p.m. curfew hour.
He said Kenya Railways will deploy 10 coaches for passengers with a total one-way capacity of 600 passengers (or 50 percent of capacity), and one additional coach that shall be used to isolate passengers suspected to be infected with COVID-19.
Macharia said the deployment of ten coaches will ensure passengers maintain social and physical distancing on the train.
“The extra coach will leave empty and we hope it will arrive in Mombasa empty because it will be used for only one purpose — to carry any suspected case of COVID-19 detected during the journey between Nairobi and Mombasa and vice versa,” he told journalists in Nairobi.
The resumption of transport comes after President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday lifted a ban on cessation of movements in Nairobi and Mombasa counties.
Meanwhile, Macharia also said Kenya will not quarantine passengers and tourists arriving into the country from other countries if they do not show any symptoms of COVID-19, a move he said is aimed encouraging tourism in order to boost the sector.
The local tourism sector is reeling from an unprecedented downturn as hotel bookings and visits to world-famous destinations like wildlife parks and beaches hit an all-time low due to COVID-19.
The government said on June 29 that the sector has incurred losses amounting to 85 billion shillings (about 800 million U.S. dollars) due to the negative impacts of the pandemic.
Macharia said that aviation authorities at all airports across the country will restrict movements inside the airport to only workers and travelers except for cases where travelers need special assistance.
“All passengers shall be exempt from quarantine on arrival at their destinations if their body temperature is not above 37.5 degree celsius and they do not have a persistent cough, difficulty in breathing and other flu-like symptoms,” he said.
He said the body temperature is important because they do not expect a tourist to come into the country and then be subjected to mandatory quarantine for 14 days.
The move comes after the transport ministry developed protocols with best practices on conducting commercial air transport, that will see aviation players ensure highest levels of safety for customers and staff.
The new protocol also includes measures to minimize contact between crew and passengers at the airport terminus, and to limit physical contact between security officers and passengers, and between airport staff and luggage.
Macharia said aviation operators will also reduce on-board service to the bare minimum, and introduce phased boarding and disembarkation procedures to eliminate crowding at the aisles.
He called on public passenger vehicle operators to adhere to the set guidelines, insisting that the operators must obtain a document to show compliance with the procedures.
The official said the commuter vehicles leaving areas previously under cessation must have documents as they go into counties to ensure accountability and compliance on a continuous basis.