Excited travellers have been boarding the recently launched trains operating between Nairobi and Mombasa in hordes and, by Tuesday evening, the number had hit 7,000.
On Wednesday, Kenya Railways announced that a week after the service started, the demand for Madaraka Express was on an upward trajectory, so much so that “we are looking forward to scheduling additional trains”, according to managing director Atanas Maina.
“Over the last week, we have experienced a daily surge in passenger numbers,” said Mr Maina in a statement to newsrooms. “We are definitely off to a strong start.”
The 7,000 people transported on Madaraka Express in the 12 trips between last Thursday and Tuesday is equivalent to 162 bus trips.
Typical buses plying the route, such as Buscar and Modern Coast, carry 43 passengers at a time, according to information on their websites. The average fare for an ordinary seat is Sh1,150.
That means that Sh8,050,000 that the bus companies would have collectively made during that time has rolled onto the standard gauge railway, where passengers on the economy class pay Sh700 a trip.
According to Kenya Railways spokesman Paul Barasa, the trains have been cruising between the two cities without making stops on the way.
Those who would wish to alight in the in-between stations of Athi River, Emali, Kibwezi, Mtito Andei, Voi, Miasenyi and Mariakani, will have to wait until July.
The statement said that KR and the contractor working on the rail, China Road and Bridge Construction, have formed a team to ensure efficient services, including the inter-county train service, once it is launched.
BUY TICKETS ONLINE
The corporation announced that from Monday, travellers on Madaraka Express will be able to buy tickets online.
Part of the 7,000 travellers who have used the railway so far include foreign tourists visiting destinations at the Coast.
A British tourist, Garry Whittworth, said the new train service would not only benefit Kenyans but also foreign visitors due to its cost and time efficiency.
“I have visited Kenya many times travelling by road as well as by air to Mombasa ... I am thrilled by the new train service.
‘‘It is convenient and cheaper. It’s a major investment that Kenya made in infrastructure and I wanted to enjoy it,” said Mr Whittworth at the Nairobi terminus before boarding the train to Mombasa on Tuesday.
Ms Yvonne Menja, a Kenyan student at the University of Oklahoma, was with her visiting classmates and she, too, expressed her delight in the new service.
“It is a new sign of Kenya going forward. It is an efficient trip that saves time and money. Last time I was in Kenya, I travelled by a 12-seater van on the road to Mombasa for nine hours,” she said.