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Since its launch five years ago, Madaraka Express has continued to register a huge growth in passenger numbers.
As of May 20 this year, over 7.71 million passengers have been transported since the launch of the standard gauge railway (SGR) passenger services. In 2017, Afristar, the SGR operator, ferried 699,055 passengers via Madaraka Express.
The operator also ferried 666,285 passengers in 2018, 1.62 million in 2019, 835,326 in 2020 and over two million passengers in 2021.
Kenya Railways Corporation, the regulator of SGR and metre gauge railway (MGR) operations in Kenya, has ensured uninterrupted running of the passenger train services for the past five years as well as maintaining an accident-free record throughout that period.
As opposed to public road transport, rail has a large carry capacity. For example, one Madaraka Express passenger train can carry up to 1,678 passengers per trip.
In terms of punctuality, rail is the most efficient and convenient mode of transport as it has fixed routes and schedules. Passenger safety is the hallmark of Afristar.
To ensure efficient operations, there are 39 stations of which 13 are passenger stations, 24 crossing stations and two junction stations.
The passenger stations comprise Mombasa Terminus, Mariakani, Miasenyi, Voi, Mtito Andei, Kibwezi, Emali, Athi River, Nairobi Terminus, Ongata Rongai, Ngong, Mai Mahiu and Suswa tations.
The crossing stations are Mgadini, Mwembeni ,Mgalani, Mackinnon Road, Maungu, Ngutini, Ndi, Mbololo, Tsavo, Kyulu, Kanja, Ndalasyani, Ngwata, Kiunduani, Makindu and Simba. Others are Nkusso, Sultan Hamud, Lesonkoyo, Erankau, Paranai, Konza, Lukenya, Nachu. The junction stations comprise Nairobi Terminus and Port Reitz.
As part of the localisation programme, Kenya Railways is now responsible for 13 passenger service operations.
The corporation is also responsible for passenger revenue management, ticketing and passenger station operation management, ticketing system management, ticketing system-related equipment management, passenger customer service and centre management.
Among the milestones that Madaraka Express is proud of include the commissioning on May 31, 2017, by President Uhuru Kenyatta, the launch of inter-county Madaraka Express passenger services on November 1, 2017, and the celebration of the operation of SGR safely for one year on May 31, 2018, which also coincided with the first anniversary.
Other milestones include the launch of double-stack trains on September 29, 2018 to improve the evacuation of cargo from the Port of Mombasa, the unveiling of the two millionth passenger on November 3, 2018, and the celebration of the second anniversary of the Madaraka Express on May 31, 2019.
Others are the inauguration of Phase 2A passenger service and the Naivasha ICD by President Kenyatta in October 2019, and the launch by the Head of State of SGR freight services to the Naivasha Inland Container Depot on December 17, 2019
Afristar in early 2020 had operated the SGR safely for 1,000 days and marked four years of success on May 31, 2021.
Additionally, Afristar had operated the SGR safely for 1,500 days as of July 9, 2021. Finally, on January 11, this year, transit cargo was offloaded from an SGR train onto an MGR train destined for Malaba as a trial run.
The successful passenger operations is attributed to advanced railway equipment such as the centralised traffic control system used in the dispatching centre, the synergy between departments and the strict implementation of train schedules as well as giving priority to passenger trains on the line.
To improve passenger experience, Afristar listens to customers by conducting customer service surveys and acts on customer feedback. It also facilitates customer service training for its staff. The firm adds coaches during the holidays and peak seasons to cater to the increased demand.
As Afristar marks five years, passengers can be assured of safety and a better customer experience. As of May 20, 2022, it had operated Madaraka Express safely for 1,816 days.
The author is an executive adviser at Finesse Media Agency