With SGR, Christmas travel need not be a nightmare

Monday, December 23rd, 2019 00:00 |
SGR train at Mombasa terminus. Photo/Courtesy

Janet Nzau

The festive season is here with us, again. As is the norm, many people travel up-country to spend the holiday with their families.

Still, others find time to sample the various tourist destinations that the country has to offer. Naivasha, Mombasa and other coastal towns remain preferred destinations. 

Most people travel during the festive season because it is the only time a number of companies give their employees a break to re-energise after a busy year.

And because of high bus and air fares, majority Kenyans can only afford to travel once a year.

But following the launch of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) over two years ago, Madaraka Express has changed travel experiences, especially  among those shuttling 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 120kph, thus reducing the travel time-— from more than 10 hours to less than five hours from  Nairobi to Mombasa and vice versa.

Besides transforming travel experiences, SGR has changed lives of settlers along the line, bringing them more possibilities for development.

Above all, it has fostered new investment opportunities for Kenyans and thus contributed to community wellbeing and economic growth. The local tourism sector has also been greatly impacted.

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 December 18 and January 4, 2020.

To cater for the rising demand during the festive season, five coaches have been added from December 22 to January 3—one first class and four economy class on the inter-county trains from Mombasa to Nairobi as well as the express train from Mombasa to Nairobi.

 The train schedules and fares remain unchanged, and for physically-challenged travellers, there are designated areas where they are given priority during boarding. Personalised assistance is also provided to passengers using wheelchairs by 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 crew members with certified training on first aid in case of medical emergency. Passengers who are taken ill aboard the train are evacuated to nearest hospitals.

That a train holiday is a relaxed voyage cannot be gainsaid. It offers a break from the long queues and the mad rush associated with road  transport. 

Travellers sit back and relax  as traffic jams are swapped for spectacular scenery. 

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. Passengers enjoy various amenities, including food courts and breastfeeding area at boarding stations.

All passengers have access to food and drinks as well as toilets. And with the escalating cost of living, train travel is looking increasingly attractive to budget-conscious travellers. 

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 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 kilometre.

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 Advisor, Afristar Limited

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