MADARAKA EXPRESS SERVICES SET TO BE RAISED TO THREE A DAY FROM JULY
(Posted 30th June 2017)
Information from Nairobi suggests that come July will Kenya Railways increase the number of daily train services between the cities of Nairobi and Mombasa from the current one to three in each direction.
This will for the first time also now allow passengers to stop enroute as at least one of the three trains will stop at stations other than Mtito Andei, which is the half way point on the route.
Trains will leave the respective stations at 8 a.m., at 9 a.m. and then at 3 p.m. providing convenient departure times for travelers both in the morning and in the afternoon.
The move is expected to further aggravate the situation for bus operators on the route with yet more travelers going to opt using the train, despite the ongoing challenges to get to the respective start and end point stations, as they are way out of the city centres.
However, airlines too have reportedly noticed a migration of passengers to the new train service, given the lower cost and the lesser hassle travelers have to go through in comparison to entering airports and being subjected to multiple security checks.
Said a regular commentator from Nairobi: ‘When you travel out of JKIA in Nairobi you must go through perimeter security, again security when entering the terminal and then again before you reach your departure gate. This is an overkill and must be streamlined. It adds to the overall time of travel, first the trip to the airport, then the check in and all the security, then the flight itself and then waiting for your bags before leaving the airport.
Given that the airports are also out of town has the rail option become more user friendly. If you purchase your tickets on line you can be there just half an hour before departure of your train and then take 4 1/2 hours to your destination. That makes it competitive when you compare the overall time of leaving your house and reaching your destination, apart from the much lower cost. A standard ticket still costs only 700 KShs and First Class 3.000 KShs and when you compare this to ticket cost that is a whole lot less.
Don’t be fooled by those adverts of low fares, if you want those you must book weeks in advance while with the Madaraka Express you book there and then and leave. Therefore, if the airline pretend they are not worried, well, don’t be misled‘.
It is expected that not just locals will cram the trains but that foreign visitors too will increasingly take to the new service, especially as the main Nairobi station is not too far from the international airport and the convenient departure times in the morning will allow many international passengers destined for the Kenya coast to take in the sights while traveling to Mombasa, while those preparing to return home can take the afternoon train from the coast to Nairobi and still have plenty of time to spare for their flight check in.
Notably are now added safari packages being prepared by leading safari lodges in Tsavo West and the Taita Hills, which can be reached via the train stations of Mtito Andei and Voi. All eyes will be on Serena and Sarova Hotels when they will offer stays in their Kilaguni and Taita Hills / Salt Lick Lodges including transfers between the lodges and the railway stations using their own vehicles, to attract additional business on the domestic travel front, cutting down on the need of visitors to use their own cars.