• With the advent of the standard gauge railway, Madaraka Express has proved to be a preferred option for travel between Nairobi and Mombasa.
• Notably, the travel time between Nairobi and Mombasa has reduced from more than 10 hours to less than five hours
The festive season is here with us, again.
As is always the norm, many people travel upcountry to spend the holiday with their families. Still, others find time to sample the various tourist destinations that Kenya has to offer to the locals as well as foreigners.
Mombasa and other coastal towns remain the preferred destinations. Most people travel during the festive season because it is the only time a number of companies close down and allow employees to take leave. And because of the high bus and airfares, the majority of Kenyans can only afford to travel once a year.
With the advent of the standard gauge railway, Madaraka Express has proved to be a preferred option for travel between Nairobi and Mombasa. Operated by the Africa Star Railway Operation Company (Afristar), in conjunction with the Kenya Railways Corporation, the Madaraka Express passenger trains travel at a speed of 120km/h, thus condensing the travel duration between destinations on the route.
Notably, the travel time between Nairobi and Mombasa has reduced from more than 10 hours to less than five hours, facilitating convenience to the residents along the line, changing their lives and work style, and bringing them more possibilities for development.
Above all, the service has also fostered new investment opportunities for Kenyans and thus contributed to community wellbeing and economic growth. The local tourism sector has also been greatly impacted. Additionally, the service has impacted positively on the lives of many Kenyans, both young and old, through employment directly and indirectly. The appeal of the service, combined with innovations and hard work of the staff in creating a world-class experience, gives an assurance that the future outlook is bright for this service.
Approximately 90,000 passengers are expected to use the train between 18th December 2019 and 4th January 2020. To cater for the rising demand during the festive season, five coaches will be added effective 22nd December 2019 to 3rd January 2020—one first-class and four economy class on the inter-county trains from Mombasa to Nairobi (N2) and the Express train from Mombasa to Nairobi (E1). The train schedules and fares remain unchanged, and for travellers who are physically challenged, the operator has designated areas, where they are given priority during boarding. Personalised assistance is also provided to passengers using wheelchairs by well-trained attendants.
The operator allows individual passengers to cancel their journeys at least 24 hours before the scheduled date of travel while group bookings must be cancelled within 72 hours prior to the date of travel. Each train has at least one or two train crew staff that have received certified training on first aid, this comes in handy in case of medical emergency. Passengers who are taken ill aboard the train are also evacuated to the nearest hospitals.
That a train holiday is a relaxed voyage cannot be gainsaid. The long queues and mad rush associated with road and air transport have no place. Instead, travellers sit back, relax and enjoy a holiday where traffic jams are swapped for spectacular scenery and high-end dining experiences. Journeying by Madaraka Express is travelling for pleasure. You’ll enjoy peace and quiet, with unlimited options for how you wish to spend your journey. Whether you choose to read, work, chat, dine, or even catch up on some much-needed sleep, you’ll discover the ideal environment aboard the train.
Madaraka Express passengers, in addition, enjoy various amenities including food courts, breastfeeding area and complimentary coffee/tea for first-class passengers at the boarding stations. All passengers have access to food and drinks as well as toilets. In order to avoid unnecessary inconvenience, passengers are advised to observe punctuality, have original identification documents and a valid ticket. The maximum weight allowed for hand luggage is 30kg for adults and 15kg for children. Alcohol is strictly not allowed on board.
There is no denying that the railway is the most romantic way to travel, offering a sense of charm and tranquility that can’t be matched by other modes of transport. When you travel by Madaraka Express, you cover much more ground. You also save time that’s usually spent making connections or suffering delays. And with the escalating cost of living, train travel is looking increasingly attractive to budget-conscious travellers, not to mention that a scenic train ride can even be a vacation in itself.
On its part, KRC, in collaboration with Afristar, has made a conscious decision to make a mark in the sector by putting in place tailored strategies to improve and revitalise services to fill a void that has existed for a long time. World over, railway services play a significant and critical role in mass transport as opposed to relying heavily on vehicular transport that is the case here.
Rail transport, as a result of its energy efficiency, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and lower cost per ton kilometer. In comparison to other means of transportation, railways are particularly useful in mass transit systems for both inter-city and urban settings.
The writer is a corporate affairs adviser, Afristar Limited