What Nairobi now needs is reliable commuter train service

Business Daily Kenya:  After its launch last week, the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) passenger train is gaining speed. It has had daily trip...

Business Daily Kenya: 

Photo of The SGR due to be launched on Wednesday by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

After its launch last week, the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) passenger train is gaining speed. It has had daily trips to and from Mombasa and Nairobi, with final destinations in Miritini and Syokimau respectively.

Both centres are far from the two cities’ central business districts (CBDs) and there is public outcry over how passengers are transiting into the city centre after alighting at either station.

And the government has responded with the introduction of a commuter bus between the stations and the CBDs for train passengers. Great move, though it creates the feeling that this was just an after-thought. Without assigned buses to deal with SGR arrivals and departures, using the normal Public Service Vehicles (PSVs) plying the Mombasa Road route would cause a daily crisis.

About 1,200 people seeking space to head to Syokimau terminal from town almost at the same time would create an inflation of fares and a shortage of PSV vehicles on the route. The same would happen once the train spews more than 1,000 passengers at the station. They would cause congestion at the bus stop. It can take hours for matatus to clear such a crowd.

This will also attract PSVs from other routes, which would worsen the traffic situation on Mombasa Road. That’s why organised transport for train passengers is such a good idea. But then, the perennial traffic on Mombasa Road will work against it most of the times.

On bad days, it can take upto three hours from town to the airport, which is nearly same distance as Syokimau Railway Station. Traffic jam is the biggest elephant in the room when it comes to transport in Kenyan towns. Nairobi is worse off, having too many vehicles more than it can handle.

On a typical workweek, the line between peak and off-peak hours has been blurred when it comes to vehicle traffic on most city routes. The only relief for motorists is Sundays or public holidays, and that, too, is never assured.

Which brings me to the main point here. Nairobi needs commuter trains, too, now that expanding roads isn’t helping as much. Current commuter train services handle a tiny fraction of the commuting population – and operate only in the morning and evening.

A more efficient city commuter train system serving all the Nairobi regions, all the time, would have greater impact on traffic jam by reducing PSVs on the roads. It would also increase economic activities by cutting wastage of man-hours, and fuel expenditure.

We are thankful for SGR between Nairobi and Mombasa. But we still need to make lives in the city bearable once you alight from these long-haul trains. The writer is the Managing Editor of Business Today (http://bit.ly/1ZsCdpA). Email: lmulunda@businesstoday.co.ke

The post What Nairobi now needs is reliable commuter train service appeared first on Mediamax Network Limited.

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