After a 15-year break, the Nairobi-Kisumu passenger train service resumed Friday on a high, with over 90 percent of seats booked by Thursday.
Queues were still long at the Nairobi Railways Central Station Thursday evening as families heading to the village for festivities booked tickets.
“The first train to Kisumu tomorrow (Friday) is going to carry up to 212 passengers when it’s fully booked,” Kenya Railways said in a statement. “We hope to add more coaches as we get more customers.”
Passengers travelling between Nairobi and Nakuru pay Sh300, Nakuru to Kisumu Sh400 and Nairobi to Kisumu Sh600 in economy class. First-class passengers on the Nairobi-Kisumu train pay Sh2,000. The train will operate between 6 am and 6.45 pm.
The return of passenger train services on the route comes as a great relief for people heading to Nakuru and the Western region.
“I can't wait to board the train from Nairobi to Kisumu. It is an experience I have missed for several years. I long to explore the beautiful scenery on my way to Kisumu,” Brian Omondi, a resident of Nairobi, told the Nation.
KRC has been conducting test rides for a while. Managing Director Phillip Mainga said the operations will now begin after trials on the line linking the standard gauge railway (SGR) to the older railway track at Longonot were completed.
“We also expect to ferry cargo... and there is huge potential for agricultural products,” said Mr Mainga. He added that Naivasha will be a trans-shipment centre that will ensure goods are ferried from the SGR to the metre gauge railway (MGR) efficiently.
While all the passengers on the MGR train will enjoy comfortable seats and the beautiful scenery, first-class passengers will enjoy luxury services such as Wi-Fi, charging ports, refreshments and spacious closets to store their luggage.
Refitted for about Sh2.8 billion, the 216km line is expected to change the fortunes of many towns along its path. Already, there is excitement in Nakuru, Kericho and Kisumu counties.
In Nakuru, for instance, the railway line is set to rejuvenate business and stimulate the economies of Njoro, Elburgon, Molo and Mau Summit towns.
Known for potatoes, carrots, dairy farming and other agricultural products, the line is expected to reduce the cost of transporting produce, stimulate the revival of industries, create jobs, and reduce congestion on the busy Nairobi-Nakuru- Eldoret highway.
“We have seen that the Naivasha depot has created employment since it became operational. A link between Nakuru and Kisumu through rail will be a major boost to the region's economic growth,” said Nakuru Trade and Tourism Executive Raymond Komen.
In Kericho County, the railway line is expected to rejuvenate businesses in Londiani, Kedowa, Lumbwa, Kipkelion and Fort Ternan, while in Kisumu, Koru, Muhoroni and Chemelil will benefit.
Molo resident John Ombati expressed optimism that the line will boost trade in agricultural products from the area.
“Molo, Njoro, Mau Narok and neighbouring areas are known to be agriculturally rich. Farmers in these areas will benefit immensely from the revived railway line,” he said.
Philip Kiptanui, a small-scale trader in Fort Ternan, said: “This is a new dawn for businesses in Fort Ternan. We will sell our goods beyond Kericho County.”