Passengers on board the Madaraka Express train economy class on their trip to Mombasa from Nairobi. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU Passengers on board the Madaraka Express train economy class on their trip to Mombasa from Nairobi. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU
By MWENDE KASUJJA

My trip on the Standard Gauge Railway train just days to its one year anniversary revealed the good and bad side of the project launched  two months to the August 2017 general election.

Of importance is how accurate the train’s departure and arrival times are. (Kenyans had largely anticipated that the operators would ease up on their strict departure time to accommodate their legendary tardiness).

The number of commuter trains and trips has increased to two trips from both Mombasa and Nairobi termini daily.

Fare in the economy class has also increased from sh700 to sh1, 000. The tickets are now also available on the operator’s website and through USSD code *639#.

CALLS NOT PICKED

Moving  to the bad, it was dumbfounding how one could not make any inquiries to the customer care phone lines. Calls are still not being picked up, one year on.

Aboard the Madaraka Express, wi-fi is still not available. Commuter buses on the Nairobi-Mombasa installed wi-fi years ago.

The lack of wi-fi makes it hard for one to get any work done or even share live pictures of their trip. Mobile phone network on board is poor as well.

It is shocking how expensive the Madaraka Express in-house caterer is, forcing most travelers to either eat in advance or carry their own food.

The lack of leg room, stiff seats and the three-seater side is a design issue that perhaps cannot be changed at this point, but new coaches that will be added in future ought to consider that no one wants to be uncomfortable for five hours.

Packing rate at the Nairobi terminus is sh100 for all private cars, a ridiculous amount for those dropping off or picking passengers, unless the operator wants the link road to be turned into a temporary parking lot.

NO RECEIPTS!

Speaking of parking fee, how comes the sh100 is not receipted? The officers manning the entrance say there are no receipts! The operator ought to install a proper parking system that will capture the minutes spent so as to make it affordable for those dropping off passengers.

The Miritini-Mombasa town link road through Port Reitz also needs to be opened. It makes no sense to travel from Syokimau to Miritini in five hours then spend three hours in traffic to reach Mombasa CBD.

Cancellation of train tickets should also be availed on the online payment service. And just as the operator made it easy to pay for the ticket via M-pesa, they should be ready to make refunds on the same platform.

All in all, as Madaraka Express turns one, we can only hope that operations will be enhanced to allow all Kenyans to continue enjoying countless rides.

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