Tag Archives: Madaraka Express

Away and Away, The Express Fares Hike Up, Point Blank with Asian Weekly 16th February 2018


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”.

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Posted by on February 16, 2018 in Uncategorized


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The Roadmap to Independence, Point Blank with Asian Weekly 8th December 2017


What is Independence? This quote by Mahatma Gandhi can perhaps explain best:

“To safeguard democracy the people must have a keen sense of independence, self-respect, and their oneness.”- Mahatma Gandhi


Kenya is turning 54 this Jamhuri Day and the year 2017 has been one of the most memorable ever. Our General Elections literally brought the country to a standstill. From August 8th to October 26th and not until November 28th we did not get an opportunity to feel as normal. The campaign period did not affect urban life until voting. This was one of the most important elections ever run for the country for various reasons. What is important now is that we must take stock of what happened, why and do the necessary.

An Independent country is able to make its own policies and has a constitution. On 4th August 2010 Kenyans turned out in large numbers for a referendum and by 67% gave Kenya’s its new constitution since 1963.

This one includes 18 chapters:

Chapter One: Sovereignty of the people and supremacy of the constitution

Chapter Two: The republic

Chapter Three: Citizenship

Chapter Four: The bill of rights

Chapter Five: Land and environment

Chapter Six: Leadership and integrity

Chapter Seven: Representation of the people

Chapter Eight: The legislature

Chapter Nine: The executive

Chapter Ten: Judiciary

Chapter Eleven: Devolved government

Chapter Twelve: Public finance

Chapter Thirteen: The public service

Chapter Fourteen: National security

Chapter Fifteen: Commissions and independent offices

Chapter Sixteen: Amendment of the constitution

Chapter Seventeen: General provisions

Chapter Eighteen: Transitional and consequential provisions

There is no doubt we are reaping its benefits till today and more days to come.

In 2003 the National Rainbow Coalition made Primary School education free countrywide and quickly Kimani Maruge became the oldest student at the age of 84. The programme has seen an exponential rise in enrollment and in the recent update, this KCPE year will see almost all students make an entry to Form One as per the directive from Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i. He has also informed the public that the Government will now directly supply the textbooks in order to curb the rampant corruption over this menace of schoolbooks.

The move by the Commission for University Education Kenya that all professors must have a PhD will prove its real purpose in due time.

If the developed world has Bitcoin, the developing world has MPESA. It was this education environment and not a Harvard or MIT where a student from Moi University developed the software that was able to mobile money transfer. Safaricom bought the patent rights and they launched it as MPESA in 2007. This platform is being now used in a few countries including India.

This genius work is reaping billions of shillings for the country. According to Safaricom, M-PESA’s contribution to the Kenyan economy stands at GDP of over 40%.

There is no doubt that MPESA has given Kenya a serious financial identity that it lacked.

A synonymous development happened in 2009 when SEACOM, which is a sub-sea fibre optic cable, was switched on in Kenya. This is a 17,000km cable that is providing Internet facility to Kenya, Djibouti, Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa. But the Kenyan government wanted to be self-reliant and thus they created TEAMS (The East African Marine System) with the Emirates Telecommunication Establishment (Etisalat). It is a 5,000km fibre optic cable between Mombasa and Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates.

The number of jobs that have opened up just because we have better Internet is unbelievable. Internet penetration in Kenya has almost doubled in the last four years. Also with the entry of the smart phones, these benefits are simply on the rise.

There is no doubt that better Internet access is a better Kenya.

The launch of the Madaraka Express known as the Standard Gauge Railway on 31st May 2017 had mixed reactions. The railway line faced many environmental hurdles due to its route. However right now it is running to packed boxes. The objective was to connect Kenya through rail and get the burden of goods and large number of passengers off the roads and air and make it pocket friendly.

The plastic ban that finally came into effect on August 2017 for Kenya was really momentous. Once again opinions may differ since plastic bags companies shut down. I call it lack of innovation on their part. This green land needed protection and it is a shame it took almost ten years to actually pass the bill and then enforce the ban.

There is no doubt, less plastic is better for the environment, better for Kenya.

Kenya has just started to rise up, watch this space for more to come.

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Posted by on January 9, 2018 in Uncategorized


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Where Art Thou Bus? Point Blank with Asian Weekly 30th June 2017

BRT Courtesy Newsbytes

BRT Courtesy Newsbytes

The world has several transport systems. The earliest known mode of transport to man were the use of horses, carriages and then the motorcar, until the railway line changed the dynamics. When the Wright Brothers were making the airplane, it was thought that is the craziest thing possible. Now we are hopping from continent to continent.

Every country is unique and while a metro is successful for London it may not be for Namibia. The best public transport systems in the world have been known to be in yes London, New York, Paris, Beijing, Tokyo, Berlin, Moscow, Sao Paulo, Seoul, Dubai and Zurich. But while their success mostly comes from the subways and railway lines, there is the successful Bus Rapid Transit System (BRT) that has made life easier for many cities too. The Bus Rapid Transit System was first used in Curitiba, Brazil in 1974 where it requires the following corridor in order to operate successfully:

  • Be at least 3km length with dedicated lanes
  • Score 4 or more points in dedicated right-of-way element
  • Score 4 or more points in bus way alignment element
  • Score 20 or more points across all five BRT Basics element: these are Dedicated right-of-way, Bus way alignment, Off-board fare collection, Intersection treatments, Platform-level boarding

According to recent research BRT can reduce travel time by millions of hours so instead of us wasting our time at the mercy of the Kenyan Traffic Police, they too will get a relief. In Johannesburg users are saving 13 minutes each way during their daily commutes, so imagine what we could do with that kind of time. It is also an excellent way to keep commuters active, for example according to the World Health Organization adults aged 18-64 should walk at least 150 minutes per week, with this BRT they will have to because of parking the private vehicles at terminals and then heading to the bus station.

Recently the current Nairobi Governor, Evans Kidero announced that the BRT System would be built along Mombasa Road, Thika Super Highway, Ngong Road, Jogoo Road and Waiyaki Way. According to the research by the City Council of Nairobi, “about 8000 vehicles are registered by Kenya Revenue Authority each month and 7000 end up in Nairobi. At independence, Kenya had 3000 cars and about 800km of paved roads. In 1974, the country had about 3000 vehicles and 2000km of tarmacked roads compared to today’s 8000km.”

Kenya is on the path for further development, especially so with the phase 1 of the Standard Gauge Railway, which has been completed and successfully launched on 31st May. This mega project is a bigger picture of connecting East African passengers and cargo. The single-track line between Mombasa and Nairobi has been dubbed Madaraka Express and will pass through 40 stations. Kenya is definitely a growing economy and transportation of goods via the road network cannot be the only option to be relied upon. Thus, the SGR will make the bigger difference. The matatus and coach buses probably fear losing business in the entirety with all this development. But then again they have been a menace to the roads, with their reckless driving and rash behavior, maybe their time is over. There is no need for useless road rage that is converting regular drivers of saloon cars to join this rough gang of unruly drivers. We can be civil drivers, passengers and commuters. Also anyway most countries have multiple modes of transportation for various requirements, ultimately price and service will have to be king. The only discouraging thing is that usually Kenyans are so complacent with poor service that they really will not create that tipping point needed for a transformation in public transport. Yes it will have different options, but they will either deteriorate because of poor maintenance and corruption every step of the way, or really Kenyans will stand up and demand what is their right, their right to a better life, after all their taxes are running the nation.

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Posted by on August 11, 2017 in Uncategorized


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