One of the biggest complaints about the SGR train service is the distance between the main terminus at Syokimau and Miritini from the main cities.
The Mombasa station is for instance 11 kilometres from the city. People have been wondering on social media whether it will be any cheaper than buses, considering you’ll have to factor in about Sh2,000 for an Uber. Well, I can tell you Uber money is only a middle class problem.
Anyway, the president took care of this by directing that a Matatu terminus be put up immediately at the Mombasa Terminus to ensure the train service is available to the masses.
In the meantime, there is no shortage of other means cheaper than Uber. Tuk Tuks have already got down to work, and Matatus are already starting to mobilize.
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Here in Nairobi, relief has come from very unlikely sources – Posta.
The loss making parastatal has launched a ‘last mile connection’ service for passengers moving from Syokimau to the City Centre.
Postmaster-General Dan Kagwe says passengers will be charged Sh100 for the journey from Syokimau to the Nairobi city centre as it tests the commercial viability of the venture.
Right now they’ll just try out and see, waiting for the train to start full operations with several trips per day.
“If it makes business sense we will continue doing it. Frankly speaking, if we’re doing one train it might not be very viable business,” he said.
Posta is seeking to diversify its business as traditional sources drive it to the brink of collapse. In the financial year ended June, Posta recorded a loss of Sh1.5 billion – its worst performance in history.
Apart from passenger transport, Posta will switch to transporting its parcels and mail via train, cutting on the higher road transport costs.
“This means we can do same day mails in Mombasa. We’ll get our trucks off the road and if it is possible we will get a postal wagon,” the Postmaster-General said.
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There are also many public transport services in town that can get you to Syokimau direct or through connections.
Now, once you’ve sorted your transport to Syokimau or Miritini, when do you then get on the Madaraka Express?
As the President said on Wednesday, this is just a soft launch. Until the end of the year, the operator will just be seeking to test out the service, collect crucial operation data, and come up with a proper peak/offpeak schedule. They might also review the final fare.
There will be a single train departing Nairobi every day, and another one departing Mombasa.
The trains will be leaving Nairobi and Mombasa Termini at 9am.
As directed by the President, the fare between both cities is Sh700 for economy class, and Sh3000 for first class. Unfortunately, online booking has not been activated and you’ll have to physically go to the terminus to get your ticket. Make sure you’re there early enough as the demand is quite high.
The operator opened the service to the public on Thursday, and so far people seem to be liking it.
Each train has a capacity of 1200 passengers spread out in both classes. As the service gathers steam, snacks and meals will be served on board.
Importantly, there are police officers on board incase of any incident.