Passengers travelling on the SGR trains between Nairobi to Mombasa will from today pay fares via M-Pesa, removing a hurdle that had opened the ticketing business to middlemen.
Kenya Railways has reached a deal with Safaricom for paybill numbers that will allow commuters to pay from home and get tickets at the station. Previously, passengers could only book by paying cash at the ticketing offices in Nairobi or Mombasa.
“M-Pesa payments will be ready from today. Safaricom team is on the ground finalising 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,” said Kenya Railways managing director Atanas Maina.
“We are interacting with various service providers and we will be able to see how online payment system will now interface with our ticketing system.”
About nine pay bill accounts will be available, representing each terminal. Once a payment has been done, a passengers will get a reference number, which he or she will use to get a ticket at the station.
The tickets have a travel date and time but no name. They also contained travel class, carriage and seat numbers. An economy class ticket costs Ksh700 while a first class one goes for Ksh3,000.
The booking point has paved the way for middlemen who are reportedly buying tickets at Ksh700 and selling them at Ksh1,000 outside the SGR termini.
Claims of artificial shortage that make it seem like the wagons are fully booked have been rife since Thursday last week. The trains have become popular with passengers due to low promotional prices and quicker travel, a situation that has left hundreds stranded at the stations.
Related: The SGR fare plan and schedules
The express train slashed the time for the 472 km journey to about four hours from 12 on the line built more than a century ago that stretched from Mombasa to the Ugandan capital, Kampala. The older line is operated by Rift Valley Railways.
The express line also gives businesses and passengers a cheaper and safer alternative to the single-lane highway between Nairobi and Mombasa that is often clogged with cargo trucks. [Copyright: Daily Nation]