The rail traffic in Kenya was in the 19th introducedthe Century in 1896. The first rails were laid for what would become known as the Lunatic Line. His name was coined in a speech in Parliament in London about the ever-increasing cost of a seemingly futile exercise.
It was a meter gauge network that over a hundred years ago also led from Kenya to Uganda. The rail line was intended to improve Uganda’s access to the Indian Ocean through the port of Mombasa.
However, this mode of transport has since undergone major overhaul after the China Road and Bridge Corporation was hired to build the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway (SGR).
The project cost $ 3.6 billion. The main construction work of phase 1 (SGR route Mombasa-Nairobi) began in December 2014 and was completed in Nairobi in May 2017.
Peter Kamau is a taxi company based at the SGR Terminal Mombasa. He has lived in the coastal town for over two decades, he has seen both the crazy train and now the SGR services. With the introduction of these new train connections, a lot has changed not only in the transport sector, but also in the tourism sector.
“I can say that SGR was very important to us because, unlike in the past, when we were used to international tourists arriving as SGR, domestic tourism was improving. Before, people weren’t used to local tourism, but now, here on the coast, it is [SGR] has really inspired many to simply travel to the region. “
Many SGR passengers say that the train is more convenient and convenient than the bus transportation.
“We used to take the bus, which usually took almost 10 hours on the road from Nairobi to Mombasa. Sitting in one position for 10 hours and it was really uncomfortable, ”said Naushev Ayub, who, as we spoke to him, was preparing to celebrate his son’s birthday with his wife and a few friends on their first night train ride to Mombasa.
He added that the SGR train is not only faster than the bus, it can also accommodate more people, especially for those traveling in large groups.
“This is the first time we use the night train … I would probably say that we booked the day before where we would stay and it made sense to travel overnight and then check in in the morning,” said Sylvia Muitumi, those with group of friends.
The Nairobi-Mombasa motorway is littered with traffic jams, mainly caused by long-distance routes from the coast to other parts of East Africa. And many travelers, especially on the SGR, say that the train connections have cut travel time in half. Peter Kamau states that as a taxi driver at the SGR terminal it has become easier to pick up and drop off passengers at certain times.
“SGR has cut the time between Mombasa and Nairobi compared to the buses, which took most of the day. Travelers didn’t even know the exact time of arrival at their destination. But SGR has a standard time that can be relied on. This is good for taxi drivers because you already know the exact time for pick-up at the train station. “
The Inter-County or Madaraka Express (morning) train departs Nairobi at 8:20 am and takes five hours and 58 minutes to arrive in Mombasa at 2:18 pm. The afternoon express train leaves Nairobi at 2:35 pm and takes four hours and 43 minutes to arrive in Mombasa at 7:18 pm.
Some SGR employees also stated that they would like to be part of this trip.
“I’m the deputy head of the truck and signal department. When I see containers being loaded and transported to Mombasa and shipped, I am so proud. ”Titus Kiprop, Deputy Superintendent, Truck and Signal, Afristar.
“SGR has really made a positive impact on society. When I report on work and know that I might translate people from Nairobi to Mombasa, that keeps me going because I know that I have a positive impact on society. And when I see cargo flowing to and from Mombasa and I know I’m responsible for such a big job, it really motivates me to keep working, ”says David Kimani, Locomotive Driver, Afristar.
According to the Kenya Railways Corporation and the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), the passenger train has carried just over 5 million people between Mombasa and Nairobi since it hit the rails.
In 2017, 699,055 passengers used the train between June and December. In 2018 this number doubled to 1,700,000 travelers. In 2019, 1.59 million passengers traveled by rail, in 2020 the number fell to 720,000 in view of the coronavirus pandemic. Around 400,000 passengers are said to have been on the train between January and May 2021.