The launching of sh400 billion SGR on Wednesday at Miritini in Mombasa has marked yet another milestone for Kenya in the transport sector.
Kenyans are in awe after President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered that passengers in the economy class should not be charged more than sh700 from Nairobi to Mombasa.
But the new passenger train dubbed “Madaraka Express” has six outstanding features that were not in the conventional “Lunatic Express”.
The new SGR trains have language translation mechanisms. Though English is commonly used around the world, the Kenyan trains have the English terms translated into Kiswahili.
Most of the passengers are from Nairobi to Mombasa and the main medium of communication is Kiswahili. And having been built by the Chinese, train attendants are fluent in English and Chinese language.
In what has been seen as a stretch to empowering women, Kenya Railways Corporation has hired two young Kenyan women as locomotive drivers.
They have attended training in China’s Railway Institute.
For anyone who has had an experience of travelling in the Lunatic express, hawking is part and parcel of the travelling.
There are hawkers selling an assortment of things ranging from foodstuff, electronics and basic car equipments like life savers, first-aid kit and screw drivers.
But in the new trains, hawkers are not allowed into the terminus let alone inside the coaches.
No tissue in SGR toilet bowls
This one is a real let down for the Madaraka Express. Its toilet is designed in a way that it cannot flush away disposable tissue hence no using of tissue paper. Much worse is the fact that there are no separate toilets for gents and ladies.
No opening windows
For those who like catching a breath of fresh air while travelling over long distances, this is a shocker for them as the trains have a “no opening windows policy”.
Distance to train stations
While a trip from Mombasa to Nairobi takes an average of four hours, ironically, it might take anyone seeking to board the train from the city centre about two hours to get to Syokimau terminus due to traffic jam in the city and its environs.