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SGR trains fully booked ahead of Christmas

By Hilary Kimuyu December 23rd, 2020 2 min read

The standard gauge railway (SGR) passenger service between Nairobi and Mombasa is fully booked ahead of Christmas forcing holiday makers to seek alternatives options.

A spot check by Nairobi News on their ticket sales site revealed that the tickets for the train for most days up to December 27 are fully booked.

While travel restrictions continue to threaten the smooth travel across the country during the festive period, there is an opportunity for Kenyans to embrace local leisure tourism with some flocking the coastal city to enjoy the festivities.

This will boost bus owners and airlines alike as families look to enjoy the holiday in Mombasa and the South Coast.

Some bus operators said that they are also fully booked with some increasing their operations upwards to meet the demand of travellers.

Ticket prices for early bookings between December 17 and 24 have doubled on some routes compared to reservations made a month ago.

SGR tickets go for Sh3,000 on first class and Sh1,000 on economy class coaches.

Kenya Railways has steadily increased coaches on the Nairobi-Mombasa line, since the SGR launch in June 2017, to match rising demand that has denied bus operators new customers.

A, SGR train has capacity for 1,260 passengers with 15 economy class and three first class coaches. It also comes with a luggage carrier with a total capacity of 70 tonnes.

The rising number of travellers to the Coast is a boon for hoteliers who have faced one of their worst years and now they are hoping the visitor numbers in December will grow.

Earlier this month, KR said the trains had been recording about 94 per cent occupancy in the last two months to November.

“The Madaraka Express passenger service has seen a steady rise in passenger numbers from July 13. Shortly after resumption, the maximum seat occupancy was 50 percent,” said Anne Maina senior corporate affairs officer.

“The trains are filled to capacity just as like always. The seat occupancy is about 94 per cent now.”

The SGR was hit by tough times following travel restrictions that saw the bookings drop to zero in May and June. However, the trains have been recording growth in the number of passengers since the restrictions were eased.

In April, Kenya Railways suspended all passenger trains from Mombasa and Nairobi, which saw the State corporation refund cash to passenger for bookings that had been made.

The move was in line with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s directive banning movement in and out of Nairobi, Mombasa, Kwale and Kilifi counties to contain spread of coronavirus. As a result, two Madaraka Express trains that operated daily between Nairobi and Mombasa were immediately withdrawn.

In July, however, SGR resumed operations following the lifting of the cessation of movement.

From then on, the passenger numbers have been rising steadily. As the festivities approach, the demand has sharply gone up compelling the trains to adopt full seating capacity.

“As the country adapts to the new normal, full seat occupancy was allowed to cater to the rising number of passengers. It’s noteworthy that stringent Covid-19 prevention measures are being adhered to at the stations and in the train,” Ms Maina said.

Kenya Railways revised some procedures in line with the pandemic measures, including reducing the pre-booking window to five days before the date of travel from the previous 60 days.