NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
Moses Omoka works with a Kenya government agency
in Mombasa, some 400 km from the capital Nairobi.
The accountant was
transferred to the coastal city three years ago after an
eight-year stint in Nairobi.
Since his children
were in school and his wife works in the city, Omoka relocated
to Mombasa alone.
“Every week, I would
leave the office on Friday, take an overnight bus to Nairobi,
stay with my family and return to Mombasa on Sunday night,” he
Omoka followed the
routine for the first five months, found it too tiring and
reduced the frequency of visiting his family to twice or once a
month. This put a strain on his relationship with his wife and
children, due to his absence.
But as luck would
have it, the Kenyan government introduced just in time the
passenger service train from Mombasa to Nairobi.
The Madaraka Express
train built by the Chinese takes some five hours to travel from
Nairobi to Mombasa and vice versa and has become a huge blessing
for Kenyans like Omoka.
One parts with 10
U.S. dollars for the economy class and 30 dollars for first
class. By bus, it costs between 10 dollars and 25 dollars
depending on the season for the eight-hour journey.
The train, whose
operations started in 2016, travels daily on the route, offering
both inter-county and express services.
“I can confidently
say the train saved my marriage because I now commute every week
to Nairobi thanks to the shortened journey. I had become an
absentee father. My three children had even started to forget
me,” he said.
On most of the
Friday’s, Omoka works half-day then takes the train from Mombasa
in the afternoon and arrives in the evening. He then leaves
Nairobi to Mombasa on Sunday afternoon.
“The Standard Gauge
Railway train has enabled me visit my family every week,” said
Steven Kariuki, who works with a non-state organization in
Kariuki has a home
in Utawala, Nairobi, where his family stays. After getting
switching jobs, he weighed his options and chose to leave his
family behind as he headed to Mombasa.
“Initially, I was
travelling by air every Friday evening but it was expensive. I
switched to the train because of affordability,” he said.
With the standard
gauge railway train, Kariuki and Omoka, and tens of other
Kenyans travelling from Mombasa to Nairobi or vice versa no
longer have to fear about road accidents, which are frequent on
the Mombasa-Nairobi highway.
According to the
National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA), Mombasa Road is
among the leading killer roads, accounting for 24 percent of the
over 3,000 annual deaths from accidents.
Henry Wandera, an
economics lecturer in Nairobi, noted that the bringing of
families closer by the train are part of its social benefits.
“Many people have
focused on economic and political benefits of the train,
ignoring such social benefits that appear insignificant. So many
families and couples separated by work are now happier because
their spouses can travel frequently and safely to and from
Nairobi or Mombasa,” he said.
He noted that the
impact of the railway on families would be greater when the
train reaches western Kenya.
“There are wives in
western Kenya whose husbands work in Mombasa and they see them
once or twice a year because of the cumbersome road travel. The
train would certainly reduce the travelling time and fares,” he
As at May, the
Madaraka Express train had ferried 1.3 million passengers to and
from Nairobi, according to the Ministry of Transport.