This May it will be one year to the opening of the Madaraka Express and it has seen almost 600,000 passengers and still counting.
The whole hype was fantastic and so far and journeys have been fun for those who have travelled on it. The Nairobi to Mombasa trip and versus has been successful and soon Nairobi to Naivasha will be launched.
The fares are meant to double this April and the protests have started. Rightfully so, since the Nairobi South Station is in Syokimau and access to it can cost you whether it is on matatu, taxi or private car. Thus, when you are doubling the economy fare and expecting the customer to also bear all those other costs it is unreasonable. To hike the fare within a year is unreasonable. A return first class ticket is 50% of a return airfare. Thus, they have the economic power to make the choice and larger groups can enjoy the reasonable fare and fun interaction during the journey.
For the average rider who prefers this ride to the bus, it is an unfair price increase. Also when they arrive in Mombasa they have further fares to pay to get to their final destination. At least a three years gap should been given. The most important service to get working like clockwork is the tickets booking, payments and information of the travel times. This needs to be as real time as possible and feedback as swift as possible. Fixing this key component will definitely sort out customer frustrations and discipline them to have faith in the system and depend on it for their travels. Hopefully even a last minute booking can be done, because Kenyan culture is very last minute. By winning the hearts of Kenyans with these small crucial efficiencies, the price hike will not seem unfair.
The security checks are superb and while the lines are long depending on busy season, you are assured of safety as much as possible. The main thing is to give a balance to this new technology and system because if the Madaraka Express can achieve this smoothly it will be the beginning for demand from the travellers to get better services for their daily commute. Every country faces hiccups when changing the infrastructure and this railway has been the biggest one since Independence. Let it not be the last one.
Let this railway be a learning platform for future engineers, architects and technicians, just a few skilled jobs that young Kenyans can aspire to have. Why should they watch a mega structure unfold on television when seeing it for themselves can inspire them? They need to know they can build something similar or bigger and better too. It is the vision the Government must aspire to create for them, only then our future has hope of be a fighter in the competitive African market, which is being exploited by “those who know better”.