Cargo and passenger revenues from the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) rose 7.8 percent to Sh7.1 billion in the six months to June, extending recovery from the global Covid-19 disruptions.
The latest data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows that the passenger train crossed the Sh1 billion mark in a half year period for the first time since the train was launched, boosting efforts for the project to break even.
The passenger train raked in Sh1.24 billion in the six months ended June, a 49.6 percent jump from Sh829 million posted in similar period last year.
The cargo service, which mainly subsidises the passenger line, marginally grew to Sh6.17 billion in the six months from Sh6.04 billion in similar period last year.
The latest data on the operational costs of the SGR are not available but documents tabled in Parliament show that the cost of operating the cargo and passenger trains was Sh17.976 in 2019, translating to Sh1.498 billion per month.
This comes even as the modern rail prepares to take a hit coming from increased competition from the road transporters following President William Ruto's order to revert port operations to Mombasa.
The government is banking on improved performance of the SGR to ease the burden on taxpayers who have in the past been forced to pay for operational costs of the trains as the project struggles to break even.
Kenya requires additional cash from the railway business to ease the taxpayers’ burden of paying the loan and also the Chinese firm that runs that SGR passenger and cargo trains.
The collections largely driven by a spike in the number of passengers in the period is the highest in the first half of the year since the SGR started operations in 2017.
The growth reflects the surge in passenger traffic as the SGR sold 1.121 million tickets in the six months to June, a 48.7 percent jump from 754,313 tickets over similar period a year ago.
Operating costs of the SGR have in the past dwarfed revenues, fueling public outrage over the viability of the landmark project.
of the previous administration.
The project cost $3.2 billion (Sh323.2 billion) that was largely borrowed from the Exim Bank of China from May 2014.
SGR operates passenger services from Nairobi to Mombasa and an inter-county service with stations at Athi River, Emali, Kibwezi, Mtito Andei, Voi, Miasenyi, and Mariakani stations.
Passengers pay Sh1,000 on economy class seats and Sh3, 000 on fast class seats between Nairobi and Mombasa aboard the express train.
Fares for the inter-county vary based on the station. For example it costs Sh260 on the economy class to travel from Nairobi to Emali.
Children below three years are not charged any fee to take a ride on the train while those from 3-11 year pays half the price adults pay on economy and first-class tickets.