The excitement to ride on the fast train between Nairobi and Mombasa is fast fading.
Officials say low passenger volumes have forced the service operator to delay the launch of the inter-county service by three months.
The government had earlier promised to launch an inter-county train service by September 1, allowing passengers to alight and board at various stations between Nairobi and Mombasa.
The Madaraka Express train, which has been operating from May 31, moves non-stop between Mombasa and Nairobi.
Transport Secretary James Macharia said more passengers are needed for the smooth operation of the two inter-county service train that will supplement the existing Madaraka Express train travelling oin both directions.
“Inter-county train will be launched in three months. As it is, there is low demand for the train in the counties,” said Mr Macharia.
He did not indicate the number of more passengers needed for a smooth launch of the inter-county service.
“Demand for the train transport is still only high between Nairobi and Mombasa.”
Mr Macharia’s remark is in contrast to earlier statement from the Kenya Railways, which had indicated that delay in the arrival of critical staff from China was behind postponement of the launch.
Chinese firm, China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) will operate passenger and cargo business on the new Mombasa—Nairobi rail for five years.
Once the inter-county service is launched, passengers travelling on the economy class coaches will pay Sh510 from Nairobi to Voi, Sh230 from Voi to Kibwezi, Sh50 from Mombasa to Mariakani, Sh400 from Emali to Miasenyi and Sh160 from Athi River to Emali.
First class, passengers will pay Sh1,670 from Emali to Miasenyi, Sh920 from Voi to Kibwezi, Sh660 from Athi River to Emali, Sh140 from Mombasa to Mariakani and Sh2,130 from Nairobi to Voi.
The train service will further pile pressure on bus operators, who have recorded reduced business on the Nairobi-Mombasa route since the launch of the SGR passenger train service in May.
Since the launch, two Madaraka Express trains have been departing at 9am daily from both directions, offering a four-and-a-half hour non-stop connection between Nairobi and Mombasa.
The express line is offering passengers a cheaper and safer alternative to single-lane highway between Nairobi and Mombasa that is often congested.