Kenya’s largest infrastructure project rakes in more than USD10m in passenger sales a year into operations

Madaraka Express was launched June last year by President Uhuru Kenyatta and has within that period ferried 1.3 million passengers.

  • Kenya’s largest infrastructure project since independence has raked in more than Sh1 billion ($10m) in passenger sales since it became operational a year ago.
  • Madaraka Express was launched June last year by President Uhuru Kenyatta and has within that period ferried 1.3 million passengers.
  • The train has shortened the travel time to Mombasa which used to take about 15 hours to four-and-a-half hours.

Kenya Railways managing director Atanas Maina said yesterday that Madaraka Express, which marks its first anniversary today has made more than Sh1 billion in passenger sales.

Madaraka Express was launched June last year by President Uhuru Kenyatta and has within that period ferried 1.3 million passengers, according to Mr. Maina.

The overall seat occupancy stands at 96.7 per cent since the train started operations.

The ride has however not been that smooth and Madaraka Express hit a few too many bumps.

“We had challenges in ticketing, access roads, restaurants at the terminal where some people wanted the terminal to be near towns. We also had challenges to do with vandalism,” Maina said.

The train was also hit with cases of vandalism which saw President Kenyatta vowed to send any person caught destroying the Sh327 billion ($3.2bn) Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project to face the hangman.

“The presidency gives me powers to authorise executions, and let me warn those who plan to vandalise the railway that I will sign that order and they will be hanged,” President Kenyatta told a gathering at the Miritini terminus during the launch of the multi-billion project.

Mr. Maina said several people have so far been arrested and prosecuted, a move that has made vandalism cases drop drastically.

Getting train tickets was also hectic and a nightmare, a case which saw brokers and conmen take advantage of the situation to sell inflated tickets to stressed passengers.

“We have also ensured that the challenges to do with ticketing are resolved. We now have 60 percent of tickets being transacted on line,” he said.

Kenya Railway biggest headache however remains its freight service which the country had relied to make the project commercially viable. The service has struggled to pick up since it was launched early this year.

Transport CS James Macharia said the inter-county train rolled out in November last year has revolutionised the way passengers travel after waiting for over 100 years.

“It has spurred developments in various counties, a move that has seen things change dramatically. We have seen a lot of development,” said Macharia.

Affordability and timeliness are Madaraka’s highest selling point.

The train has shortened the travel time to Mombasa which used to take about 15 hours on the old train to four-and-a-half hours.

While buses take up to eight hours to cover the 472-kilometre journey, charging between Sh800 to Sh2,500 on the executive coaches, Madaraka trains on the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) take half that time.

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