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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

Kenyan train service makes commuting
easier for couples working apart   

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 recounted.

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 Mombasa.

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 noted.

As at May, the Madaraka Express train had ferried 1.3 million passengers to and from Nairobi, according to the Ministry of Transport.

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