For the past few days my new preferred mode of shuttle has been train for the better part of my journey to work. Every time the train comes to a complete halt at the railway station
the massive number of people of all walks of life that disembark from the rusty locomotive is just mind blowing to me.
With only forty shillings per head the train is able to ferry thousands of people at a go for a distance of between 15-20kms in only 30 minutes. On the other hand it takes about two hours on a bad day to ferry utmost 50 passengers and on a pretty good day, an hour for a bus covering the same distance at double the price on the jam packed Nairobi roads. On a single day with 6 morning and 6 evening trips the Rift Valley Railways owned trains ferry up to 15,000 passengers into and out of Nairobi City Centre and its environs. If we split this by two it means in one morning up to 7500 passengers commute on train from Syokimau, Embakasi, Ruiru and Kikuyu the main routes served. If one day these commuters decided to use buses instead, it would take about 120-fifty seater buses to complete a task that would have been executed by only 6 trains and if they were to switch to what we commonly refer to as ‘Nissans’ it would take 500 of them to complete this task…You can imagine if 400 ‘Nissans’ were added into the already jam packed roads and all of them are jostling for the little available space to get into the city centre how much of a traffic would that be! Think of that.
For those few days I have been commuting on train I have been getting to work much earlier than when I used a matatu and again feeling very fresh. It is a very convenient mode of transport and very affordable. If as a country we decided invest more on the rail system in terms of expanding the rail network to cover areas that are currently not, acquiring more trains that are more efficient and modern and even establishing new terminals in addition to the one available currently in the city centre, to help serve the increased number of people using the service, what kind impact is that going to create in the economy and the normal day to day lives of city dwellers. At least for once Nairobians can take leave from the constant struggles meted out to them by matatu operators from unjustifiable hiking of fares, having to keep on reminding the conductor to get your charge back, over speeding, loud and obscene on-board music to a host of other hostilities that commuters go through in the hands of matatu operators.
After providing people with this alternative, we can then figure out how to bring order and sanity into the matatu sector in terms of ensuring that they stick to the fares prescribed by the saccos whether it rains or not; in terms of ensuring they get passengers to the rightful destinations than dumping them midway and generally the discipline of the touts. If this is accomplished coupled with the alternative of rail system then we will in a great way reduce the incessant traffic snarl-ups in fact most people who prefer to ride on their personal cars all alone, will be more than willing to park their vehicles at home and ride on public transport and the resultant will be very pleasant.