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Why commuters are finding it hard to purchase SGR tickets via M-Pesa

A shortage of phone operators is derailing the purchase of tickets via M-Pesa for the standard gauge railway (SGR) passenger train plying the Mombasa–Nairobi line.

Travellers booking Madaraka Express train via M-Pesa have complained that they have not been able to reach operators manning the free toll lines, making it difficult to secure seats for early booking.

The toll-free lines, which operate from 7am-4pm, remain unattended for most of the time when passengers call to book, passengers say.

NO ONE PICKING CALLS

“I have been calling the line for the better of the day but no one has been picking my calls,” said Erastus Mulwa, a passenger who failed to book yesterday’s train.

“As we speak, I’m planning to go to Syokimau train terminus and book manually as I have reschedule my plans to travel to Mombasa on Wednesday.”

Kenya Railways says the booking hitches is the product of inadequate operators, adding that the staff are fewer than the 120 call pick-up points.

“There are so many calls coming in at a time. You have to exercise some level of patience for it to be received as there are few operators manning the lines at the moment,” said corporate affairs manager Mary Oyuke while denying the calls are unattended.

LOW PRICES

Commuters booking via M-Pesa must first call to book space before paying through the pay bill accounts. The trains have become popular with passengers due to low promotional prices and quicker travel.

An economy class ticket costs Sh700 while a first class one goes for Sh3,000. Buses charge between Sh1,000 and Sh2 000 for the trip.

The M-Pesa deal was reached to allow commuters to pay from home and get tickets at the station. This was also meant to remove a hurdle that had opened the ticketing business to middlemen.

Previously, passengers could only book by paying cash at the ticketing offices in Nairobi or Mombasa.