Matatus plying various routes from Nairobi into Central Kenya face jitters following the re-launch of passenger rail services on the Nairobi-Nanyuki line.
Kenya Railways is set to start commercial passenger services on the revamped line from Friday, December 11. At least Ksh3 billion was invested into upgrading the line which had been rendered useless for over 20 years.
The maiden trip will see a train with a capacity of 1,600 passengers leave Nairobi at 8 am. It is expected to arrive in Nanyuki at 2 pm.
The 240 kilometre line from Nairobi to Nanyuki includes stations at Murang’a, Makuyu, Maragua, Sagana, Karatina, Kiganjo, Chaka and Naromoru.
It will cost Ksh200 to travel from Nairobi to Nanyuki on a second class coach. Fare for inter-terminus trips ranges between Ksh50 and Ksh100.
The route is currently dominated by 14-seater matatus, operating in saccos. They ferry a majority of travelers heading from Nairobi to different destinations in the region.
Speaking to Business Today, a driver on the Nairobi-Nyeri route stated that the cheap fares were a concern.
“Before Covid-19 fare from Nairobi to Nyeri was at Ksh350. When we were forced to reduce capacity we increased it to range between Ksh400 and Ksh700.
“If the railway will be charging Ksh100 like we are hearing then it cannot be good for business,” noted Joseph Maina.
Maina, however, noted that Kenya Railways still had to boost passenger confidence if they were to dethrone matatus.
Other than the passenger service, the line also includes cargo operations. Kenya Railways is eyeing transportation of agricultural produce from the region as well as fuel, fertilisers, hardware and more.
It would make it possible for produce meant for export to be transported entirely via railway to the Port of Mombasa. Produce from Central Kenya would be transferred to the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) in Nairobi before being taken to Mombasa.
The passenger rail service will primarily target small holder farmers, business people and local and international tourists visiting Central Kenya.
Constructed in 1908, the Nairobi-Nanyuki railway line was built by the British colonial government to facilitate trade of agricultural products by settlers in the so-called ‘White Highlands’.
Kenya Railways expects to generate more than Sh370.4 million per year from the revamped line.