Kenya’s modern train service eases trips of travelers in rainy season


On Tuesday evening, Samuel Maundu boarded a 9 p.m. bus from Kenya’s capital Nairobi for the coastal town of Mombasa, about 400 kilometers away.

It had rained heavily in the capital, with the rains causing massive traffic jams on most major roads of the city.

Maundu, a journalist, who was going to visit a sick relative, remained hopeful. He had planned to arrive in Mombasa early morning, visit the sick person and take a night bus back.

However, this well-laid-out plan started to crumble some 50 km into the journey when they found a heavy traffic jam along the Nairobi-Mombasa highway.

“We ended up spending eight hours in the traffic jam and it was raining heavily. I arrived in Mombasa the next day at 1 p.m.,” he recounted on Thursday.

Maundu finished his business at the coast and returned to the capital on Thursday afternoon via the standard gauge railway train in a seamless journey that saw him arrive in Nairobi at about 1.30 p.m., having left Mombasa at 8.30 a.m.

“I initially opted for the night bus because the train to Mombasa is currently fully booked,” he said, noting the train service is the best transport means to and from Mombasa.

Unlike road transport which is affected by flooding thanks to ongoing heavy rains in Kenya, the modern train dubbed Madaraka Express is offering seamless service, saving travelers the road transport nightmare.

Motorists traveling between Nairobi and Mombasa by road are spending up to 15 hours on the road due to heavy rains that make sections of the highway impassable.

Since the rains started three weeks ago, with most areas receiving about 50 mm in a day according to Meteorological Department, heavy traffic jams are being experienced on the road nearly every day, with motorists and travelers paying the highest price.

On Tuesday evening, most motorists spend the night on the highway, with heavy rains worsening the situation.

The heavy traffic jam had been experienced four days earlier and in the previous months, making the road one of the depressing to use when it rains.

Those using the standard gauge railway train service are, however, assured of their journeys as planned.

The intercountry train normally leaves Nairobi or Mombasa at 8.30 a.m., arriving in either of the destinations at about 2 p.m.

On the other hand, the express trains departs from the two terminals at 2 p.m. and arrive at the destinations at about 7 p.m.

“With the train, rain or shine, you are assured of the service and that you will reach your destination,” said Caroline Achieng, a government worker who used the train on Dec. 1.

And unlike buses and airlines which usually increase their fares ahead of the festive season, the standard gauge railway train run by the Chinese has not.

Passengers are currently paying 1,500 Kenyan shillings (15 U.S. dollars) to Mombasa from Nairobi by bus, with the fares expected to hit 25 dollars as Christmas nears.

Airlines, on the other hand, are charging between 160 dollars and 250 dollars for a return ticket as the peak season starts.

On the modern train, passengers are paying 1,000 shillings for an economy ticket and 3,000 for first-class, with the fares remaining unchanged.

The train operator is expected to increase the number of coaches to cater for the high number of passengers during the festive season.

The train ticketing system shows it is fully booked, with travelers taking advantage of the booking window that was extended from initial 30 to 60 days.

Ernest Manuyo, a business lecturer at Pioneer Institute in Nairobi, observed that the modern train is an all-season mode of transport.

“This is what the country needs. People should not be inconvenienced or cancel their journeys because it has rained. The rains will always be there but business must go on,” he said. Enditem

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