First Impressions of Madaraka Express

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The mode of transportation you use while moving from one location to another has a direct effect on your travelling experience either for the good or bad. No wonder, the launch of the new railway from Mombasa to Nairobi was embraced with an overwhelming happiness as it was a feat that came after a prolonged effort from the government.

Apart from the railway instituted by the colonial government; ‘The Lunatic Express’, this is the first domestic railway system in the country. For a long time, travellers have had to depend on the two-lane highway to move from the biggest port in East Africa – Mombasa to the capital city, Nairobi.


Mombasa Terminus

Image courtesy: MICHAEL KHATELI


Construction & Launch

The construction of the railway started in 2013 and was projected for completion in December 2017. However, the railway financed by the Chinese government and built by a Chinese company was able to beat that schedule by opening it on a meaningful day – Madaraka day which signifies the anniversary of Kenya gaining autonomy to rule in their country and is also the official name of the railway line – The Madaraka Express.

The opening of the Standard Gauge Railway on May 31st, 2017 featured a red carpet ceremony attended by enthusiastic Kenyans who could not wait to start plying the train route.


New Railway line

Image courtesy: MICHAEL KHATELI


Route connection

Travelling by bus has been the major transportation mode covering the route from Mombasa to Nairobi for duration of 9 to 16 hours. While former passenger-train service from Nairobi to Mombasa lasted for about 10 hours.

With the opening of this new railway, that journey span has been reduced by more than half. The route has a length of 472 km and a total length of 609 km. The train will run along the routes of Mombasa, Kilifi, Kwale, Taita-Taveta, Makueni, Kajiado, Machakos and Nairobi.

For now, the trains are not making any stops along the way from Mombasa to Nairobi. The project of the Standard Gauge Railway intends to extend the routes to Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan and Ethiopia to place Kenya in the middle as the central connecting network.


Railway Platform

Image courtesy: MICHAEL KHATELI


The most Comfortable Public Transport in Kenya

Apart from the reduction in the travelling time when using the train, there is also a higher comfort level as evident in the amenities offered. Many Kenyans at the opening of the railway were excited at the provision of a toilet on-board, a facility which is lacking while travelling by road on the bus.

The superior design of the line also ensures that the train seats are built for optimum sedentary comfort on long trips. People can now cut down the 12 hour trip from Mombasa to Nairobi to just four and half hours. The Economy coach accommodates 118 passengers in each coach while the 72 passengers in the First Class coaches. Both classes enjoy air conditioning, WI-FI, and catering amenities.


Madaraka Express

Image courtesy: MICHAEL KHATELI


Affordability and accessibility

The new railway will see more people accessing the more affordable means of transport as compared to flying. This would also mean an easier accessibility where they can avoid the strenuous and lengthy checks at the Nairobi airport.

The Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is known for its usual traffic upholds which lengthens the total time of the trip from Mombasa to Nairobi. Also, the more central locations of the train stations in both Mombasa and Nairobi make it a more accessible choice of transportation for both locals and tourists.

That being said flying might not be the cheapest, but it is still the quickest means of transportation to and from Nairobi and Mombasa.


The Interior insaade of Train

Image courtesy: EPA


Tourism and economy

The opening of the railway is a plus for tourism as having an alternate means of travelling for shorter hours apart from flying will create more appeal and ease for tourists. This is a very important development for Kenya which continues to attract a large number of tourists annually due to its unique wildlife reserves.

In the aspect of movement of goods, the new freight trains to be used on the new railway are equipped to carry both cargo and passengers so goods can move faster between Mombasa and Nairobi which facilitates a better run economy.


Interior New SGR Train

Image courtesy: MONICAH MWANGI


Feedback so Far

The new railway construction has received some negative press from certain sides, citing it as an unneeded debt acquisition especially since the World Bank had refused to fund it when they were approached over it in 2013.

However, the benefits that accrue from its construction seem to far outweigh these concerns as the opening of the railway has been greeted by excitement and happiness from the people of Kenya.

Within just a week after its launch on May 31st, over 7000 people have been transported on the Madaraka Express with foreign tourists making a large number of the people buying the train tickets.


#MadarakaExpress is trending on social:



I regret going traveling… said nobody ever.. #madarakaexpress

A post shared by Elizabeth Kitonga (@lizzbbizz) on


Earlier today! About to board the #madarakaexpress to the land of #workflowtho

A post shared by Kris (@ms_muchendu) on


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