The plan by the Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) to withdraw the standard gauge rail (SGR) promotional fares in the next two months has been welcomed by owners and managers of bus companies operating between Nairobi and Mombasa as competition shifts to quality of service.
On Friday, Kenya Railways managing director Atanas Maina said the fares would be adjusted to Sh1,200 from Sh700 after approval by the Transport Ministry, coming to level with bus charges.
The Sh3,000 fare for first-class passengers on the train which has been operational since last June will, however, remain the same in the new fare regime.
The buses had earlier decried the rock bottom SGR fares, which they saw as a threat to their businesses.
“We welcome the move. It will be upon passengers to choose on the mode of transport to use when travelling between the two towns,” Mash East Africa general manager Lenox Shallo told the Business Daily, adding the new tariffs would result in fair competition in the market.
Coast Bus owner and managing director Ajaz Mizra said the move was in the right direction, adding that review of SGR fares was long overdue.
He said Kenya Railways should have set the right price from the onset to avoid price disruption, which may send a number of their customers back to buses.
“This is a move in the right direction that should have started as early as yesterday”, he said
The 472-kilometre standard gauge railway line between Mombasa and Nairobi was constructed at a cost of Sh327 billion. It was co-financed by commercial and semi-concessional loans from China and the Government of Kenya.
Nairobi and Mombasa are the main termini of the ultra-modern SGR line with another 31 stations in-between.
They include seven intermediate stations in Mariakani, Miasenyi, Voi, Mtito-Andei, Kibwezi, Emali and Athi- River where the Inter-County train has been making five-minute stop-overs as it snakes to either Nairobi or Mombasa, travelling at 120 kilometres per hour.
President Uhuru Kenyatta in May directed the fares be subsidised at Sh700 for an economy class ticket and Sh3,000 for passengers travelling first-class between Nairobi-Mombasa.
This was a reduction from the initial Sh900 which had been announced early by Transport and Infrastructure Cabinet secretary James Macharia.