Passengers who consider using the recently- launched Standard Gauge Railway will now enjoy the convenience of paying for train tickets via Mpesa, thus creating a solution to the issue of middlemen who were taking advantage of the ticketing business.
The Mpesa services were made possible after Telecommunication Company Safaricom reached a deal with Kenya Railways which would allow commuters to use paybill numbers to buy tickets unlike what was happening before where one would have to physically buy the tickets when boarding. Each terminal would have its number, which meant that about 9 paybill numbers will be in use.
“M-Pesa payments will be ready from today. Safaricom team is on the ground finalizing training for 20 ticket issuers who will be based at our stations. We also intend to bring on board Telkom Kenya and Airtel going forward,” The Kenya Railways managing director Atanas Maina Confirmed.
He further assured that interactions with other service providers were taking place to ensure the convenience of online ticket purchases. After making payments, passengers would then get a reference number which would then be used to get the physical ticket from the station, which contains the time and date of travel, class, seat and carriage numbers.
However, the tickets do not have the traveler’s name. Tickets for the economy class cost sh. 700 while those of a first class cost Sh. 3,000. The service, however, was bad news for middlemen who would buy tickets at sh. 700 and sell them at sh. 1000 outside the train terminus.
The revolutionary train has seen great preferences by passengers traveling between Nairobi and Mombasa due to the low prices as well as the speed of the trains. Unlike traveling by bus, which usually takes around 9 hours, the trains only use around 4 hours only, traveling at an average speed of 120km/h (75mph) on the 472 km journey, which to many is a great convenience.
The train is also safer as compared to the single-lane highway between Mombasa and Nairobi which is usually clogged with cargo Trucks. The train routes from Mombasa, Mariakani, Miasenyi, Voi, Mtito Andei, Kibwezi, Emali, Athi River and finally to Nairobi.
The second phase of the SGR will extend the Mombasa-Nairobi line to Naivasha with the eventual goal being a connection to the Uganda border where the connection will take place. Another Chinese company is also building an SGR line in Uganda, which will increase connectivity in the landlocked country.