More than 1,000 passengers using the newly launched Madaraka Express train service from Mombasa to Nairobi were on Wednesday stranded for hours after an engine stalled in Kibwezi.
The incident happened at around 11am and it took 89 minutes before the train could continue to Nairobi.
The Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC), the state agency that supervises the operation, said the train experienced a technical hitch.
“It was a technical hitch in the engine, which is a normal occurrence in all modes of transport,” KRC managing director Atanas Maina said.
“We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused and want to assure commuters of our commitment to continue providing an efficient and reliable service.”
Mr Maina indicated that the affected passengers would not be compensated for time lost as KRC’s operational procedures do not provide for such remedy.
Since the launch of the Madaraka Express service in May, the trains have been departing daily from both directions, offering a four-and-a-half-hour non-stop connection between Nairobi and the coastal city of Mombasa.
An economy class ticket between the two cities costs Sh700 while a first class ticket goes for Sh3,000.
472 km standard gauge railway (SGR) line between Mombasa and Nairobi, constructed at a cost of Sh327 billion, is Kenya’s single-largest infrastructure project since independence. The construction has been co-financed through commercial and semi-concessional loans from China and the Kenyan government.
It has been one of Jubilee administration’s prime projects that was executed under the improvement of infrastructure plan, which includes the upgrading of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and the Mombasa port and the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia-Transport (Lapsset) Corridor.
The stretch between Mombasa and Nairobi marks the first part of the railway line that is intended to terminate in Malaba on the Kenya-Uganda border.
Nairobi and Mombasa are the main termini of the modern SGR line which has 31 stations in-between.
These termini include seven inter-mediate stations at Mariakani, Miasenyi, Voi, Mtito-Andei, Kibwezi, Emali and Athi-River where the inter-county train will make 10-minute stop-overs on its way to Nairobi or Mombasa.
Early this week, Transport secretary James Macharia said lack of locomotives had delayed the launch of the inter-county train service that was to begin on July 1.
Mr Macharia said more locomotives were needed for the smooth operation of the two inter-county service trains that will supplement the existing Madaraka Express ones.
This was in contrast to earlier statements by the KRC, which had indicated that delay of critical staff from China was behind the hitch.