SGR passengers down by 65,833, revenue up 33pc on higher fares

Passengers disembark from the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) Train at Miritini Terminus in Mombasa on March 25, 2024.

Photo credit: Kevin Odit | Nation Media Group

Passenger numbers on the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) dropped by 65,833 between January and March this year, new data shows, in the wake of hiked fares even as revenues jumped.

Data from the Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) shows that 531,673 used the train in the period, down from 597,506 between January and March last year.

The sharp drop came in the wake of a decision by the KRC to double fares, with passengers paying Sh3,000 between Nairobi and Mombasa one-way up from Sh1,500 effective January this year.

But the hiking of fares drove the passenger trains’ revenues to Sh80,819,035 in the period, a 33 percent rise from Sh660,155,283 booked in the same period last year.

SGR, popular as Madaraka Express is however struggling to break even with expenses outstripping revenues, leaving the train to rely on taxpayer money to fund operations and also payment of the multi-billion loan that was tapped from a Chinese bank to fund the construction of the railway from Mombasa to Naivasha.

“This (allocation) implies that the SGR project is supported by the taxpayer which is an indication that the project is struggling to break even six years after the operationalisation of the passenger and freight services,” the budget committee of Parliament said last week while approving budgetary allocation for the trains.

SGR’s passenger numbers dropped to 192,376 in January— the first month of the fares— which was a drop of 22 percent from 247,011 passengers who used the trains in January 2023.

Revenues peaked to a monthly high of Sh312,443,190 in January this year, a jump of 19 percent from the Sh261,959,811 collected in January 2023.

KRC hiked fares for both first class and economy coaches and for both inter-county and the express train, attributing the decision to high prices of fuel which significantly increased operational costs.

The raised fares took a hit on Kenyans who are grappling with the high cost of living, forcing the majority of the travellers to turn to road transport.

But the increased fares have compensated for the loss in passenger numbers, which will boost the trains’ efforts to reduce reliance on the Treasury.

Operating costs of the SGR are not readily available although past documents tabled in Parliament showed it cost about Sh18 billion to operate the passenger and cargo trains, with fuel taking a huge chunk of the money.

Kenya tapped a $3.75 billion (Sh489.71 billion at current exchange rates) from the Chinese lender to fund the construction of the railway from Mombasa to Nairobi and later to Naivasha. SGR operates express passenger and cargo services from Nairobi to Mombasa and an inter-county service.

Last week, Parliament approved ShSh901 million from the Exchequer in the year starting to fund the completion of the passenger ticketing system and an integrated security system.

SGR operates express passenger and cargo services from Nairobi to Mombasa and an inter-county service with stations at Athi River, Emali, Kibwezi, Mtito Andei, Voi, Miasenyi as well as Mariakani stations.

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