Modern train service on extended Chinese-built railway heralds better times for Nairobi commuters

Thursday, October 17th, 2019 00:00 |
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta inaugurates the standard gauge railway (SGR) Phase 2A at Maai Mahiu Station in Naivasha, Kenya, Oct. 16, 2019. (Xinhua/Robert Manyara)

Kenyans will from Thursday start using the phase 2A standard gauge railway (SGR) passenger train run by Chinese, with the service heralding better times for Nairobi city commuters. 

   The train will shuttle from Nairobi to Suswa, northwest of the capital. 

   Kenya Railways Corporation announced on Wednesday the commencement of the new service as it released the train schedule. 

   "We are happy to announce that the standard gauge railway phase 2A will be operational from Oct. 17. See you on board," said the corporation. 

   Among those to benefit from the new passenger service are residents of Rongai and Ngong, fast-growing suburbs considered to be the city's bedrooms as thousands live there and commute daily to the capital Nairobi. 

   Kenyans are reported to pay between 50 Kenyan shillings (about 0.48 U.S. dollars) and a dollar to use the service from Nairobi to Suswa on economy class. 

   On the other hand, those using first class will part with a dollar to 6 dollars depending on the distance. 

   Passengers from Ngong and Rongai will spend between 23 and 40 minutes to reach Nairobi and vice versa, cutting commuter time by about an hour. 

   Using matatu, Kenya's commuter minibusses, residents spend up to two hours in traffic jams during peak morning and evening hours. 

   The low fares and expected reduced commuter time have excited Kenyans living in the suburbs the trains will serve. 

   "Our cries have finally been heard, 40 minutes from Ngong to Nairobi, I cannot wait to use the train," said Mathew Kimiti, who works in the city center. 

   Every day, he leaves his house by 5:30 a.m. in a bid to try and beat massive traffic jams on the road to arrive at work on time. 

   He pays about 150 Kenyan shillings for the journey on a matatu. 

   Similarly, journalist Noreen Karimi, who lives in Rongai, was excited by the fact that she will use 23 minutes from the populous suburb to Nairobi. 

   "On most occasions, I have been forced to spend more time in the office to avoid traffic jams in the evening but I now have a perfect reason to go home early," said Karimi. 

   Ernest Manuyo of Pioneer Institute in Nairobi said the city needs such innovative transport solutions to beat massive traffic jams that choke Nairobi, leading to wastage of man-hours and thus causing huge economic losses. 

   The SGR commuter service joins the train that runs from Nairobi to Mombasa, which has helped cut travel time from eight to about four hours. 

   Alongside the long-distance train service, there is an intercounty train service along the route that has also changed residents' lives. (Xinhua)

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