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Mombasa-Nairobi ‘Madaraka Express’ Is Now ‘Fully
Booked’ For Bumper Festive Season At The Coast 

Coastweek -- This week is in reality the final week in which people will be seriously at “work”, writes TETI KAMUGUNDA.

The Yuletide looseness and restlessness is setting in and most people clustering over the coffee making station are probably exchanging ideas about where to go or where they have already planned to go – or not to go – during this festive season.

However, most Kenyans traditionally travel to their rural homes – or shags – and this trend is still very strong though the budding and real middle class is showing shifts.

A large number of Kenyans will be heading for the coast as will many tourists from abroad.

The increase in the number of charter and regular flights that land at the Moi International Airport in Mombasa will lead to peak occupancy in coast hotels.

The clash of both international and local tourist peaking can only bode well for the economy of the coast.

The coming of the SGR as well as the increased number of local airlines that fly to the many coast airports has created easier access to may destinations that were hitherto expensive to get to.

The SGR was launched on the thirty first of May last year and this is the second Christmas period that it will have been in operation.

For may it seems that it has been there forever!

The fact that it is fully booked is an indication of the opportunity that its launch has brought about.

Even when it is not holiday season, the Madaraka Express – as the train service is called – is still enjoying a very high occupancy which would suggest that the owner of the service should already be planning to increase frequency of the trains.

The planned extension from Nairobi to Kisumu will very quickly demand additional services as wananchi settle to the fact that rail travel is probably the safest and most reliable form of movement from one key city to another.

For many, travel to their Christmas destinations will be road and as always, we advise caution.

For those travelling by bus, please select a bus company that has a good reputation in terms of accident and vehicle break down record.

A little bit of research will quickly tell which are the safest. Obviously, not everyone can get a seat on the preferred buses.

For those who cannot get bookings on buses that have a good reputation then one has to ensure that they literally take their lives into their own hands. 

First, prior to travel, create acquaintances amongst fellow travellers and once you get some rapport going, then start the safety conversation.

Enrol then into action that you suggest should be taken in case the driver starts over speeding or is driving dangerously or suspiciously.

This will allow for crowd pressure should things appear to be getting out of hand. In such circumstances there is safety in numbers.

Should this not work then be ready to ask to get out of the vehicle at the first available location knowing that finding another one will be a challenge and prepare for the eventuality as well.

IT always pays to have the booking office numbers of several bus companies and matatu SACCOs.

What I normally do when I travel is to use the simplest test if I am not sure about the reputation of a public service transport provider.

I look at the condition of the fleet at the terminus.

If they are well appointed and have hardly any accident scars than it is likely that the organisation is well grounded in safety. 

The next thing to look for is the amount and quality of the waiting space as well as the ambience of the booking office.

If these turn out positive then it is another indicator that the service provider is likely to be a good one.

The last test is to be sensitive to the way that the booking staff treat you.

The manner in which they treat you will tell you a lot about the culture of the organisation which can be a strong indicator of the way that the drivers and operators of their routes work and whether to trust the safety promise.

For those that choose to drive – and there are many of these – we repeat the same advice.

First be cognisant of the fact that there are nearly two hundred and fifty thousand vehicles being added to the roads in Kenya each year.

The rate of expansion of the trunk roads in Kenya is zero at the moment. The only major activity is to upgrade the quality of the roads.

These two facts mean that there is no capacity increase to match the growth in numbers whilst the quality increase means that the traffic will move faster.

Increase in density and speed means that the likelihood of accidents is increased.

This is made worse by the fact that our driving manners are getting worse – especially as the matatu driving norms are rapidly influencing the way the average Kenyan drives.

The other factor is how well serviced our cars are.

We have to make sure that the safety critical items are all working – brakes, indicators, ABS, headlights, windscreen wipers and so forth.

Tyres are also important as a tyre burst would be catastrophic.

The efficacy of the steering system is also a key safety consideration.

There should not be too much play in the system as this will delay or limit the response time in case of emergency.

The key thing for drivers is that their vehicles should be such that they do not create a safety hazard by breaking down or compromise their emergency reaction by letting the items critical to this reaction get into a state of disrepair.

Those travelling by road should also choose their times carefully. I used to be a believer in planning for very early morning departures or arrivals in early evening. Because of the high density of traffic and the bad behaviour of drivers in our country, I now prefer to drive during the day because I will be in charge of most the safety options that are available to me as a driver.

The weather man has also warned that we are in an El Nino period so the weather is an important consideration when we are planning when to travel.

So, for those travelling for the holidays, we urge you to be careful in your choice of mode of transport and once the choice is made, then be extra careful in terms of safety preparedness as well as the choice of time of travel.

As Kachumbari says, the best way to travel will be the safest means  - and no other!

 

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  This year’s rally will be
flagged off at Sarova
Whitesands on November
23rd and finish at the same
venue on December 1st.

 

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