President Uhuru Kenyatta’s inaugural ride aboard the Madaraka Express Passenger train on 31st May 2017 from Mombasa to Nairobi ushered a new dawn and mark in the transport sector. The Nairobi – Mombasa line was completed and operationalized 18 months ahead of schedule and poised to outdo its 100-year-old predecessor surpassing it in both speed, capacity and projected economic impact. Most recently, Madaraka Express Passenger service ranked seventh in a listicle by a UK-based publication, The Telegraph, titled: 13 of the most remarkable rail tours for 2019; a rather impressive feat for the train service.
The service marked its second-year anniversary in a festive mood having transported over 3 Million passengers with two trains operating from the Nairobi and Mombasa termini every day. This has effectively enabled passengers to directly access seven counties, opening up opportunities for both individual and business travel.
During its two years of operation, the Madaraka Express Passenger Service has already had a direct impact on domestic tourism at the Coast with most hoteliers partnering with tour operators to offer fully paid up transfers from Nairobi to Mombasa and back. According to the Kenya Tourism Board, hotel bed occupancy has increased immensely due to the emergence of a new category of holidaymakers who have been able to leverage the convenience of the Madaraka Express Passenger Service with both domestic and international tourists opting to use rail transport.
In sharp contrast to its predecessor, the Madaraka Express Passenger Service has presented new opportunities for Kenyans by creating opportunities for job creation and technology transfer. The new railway has helped in navigating transport challenges which had partly hindered Kenya from fully realizing its domestic potential.
The Madaraka Express Passenger service has brought about since inception, various benefits including the reduction of travel time between Mombasa and Nairobi, with the trains attaining a speed of up to 120Km/hour. This great reduction on time has made a considerable impact on transport and business activities; increased domestic travel, has opened up sleepy towns and enhanced opportunities for business.
The new rail transport network forms a new transport corridor that definitely engenders greater efficacy in the movement of people and goods and thereby lowering the cost of doing business in the region, improve trade and attract investments. This expansion of railway transport has played a pivotal role in steering Kenya’s economy towards a middle-income level as envisaged in the Vision 2030. The new network goes on to provide easy access to markets and improved Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), which facilitates greater exploitation of the region’s resources for the betterment of the lives of the people in the region. Further, there has been growth in employment and entrepreneurship, industrialization among towns, as well as urbanization along the line.
Future of the rail sector in Kenya
Rail is most effective when it is part of an integrated, inter-modal transport network. So far, most countries have taken a unitary approach where they have concentrated their development efforts in only one mode of transport infrastructure namely roads. Of equal importance is the railway, which has so far demonstrated its efficacy in spurring the economic as well as human development in other countries. Within the East African Region, it is refreshing to notice that railway development is now being taken seriously after years of neglect in preference to roads transport infrastructure development. With the ongoing construction of Phase 2A (Nairobi – Naivasha) and subsequent operations of Madaraka Express within that corridor, it is expected that more and more opportunities will be available for Kenyans to further drive the country’s infrastructure development, local content in supplies, job creation both directly and indirectly, with a clear technology transfer programme for our citizenry.