Kenya: Commuter train launched in Nairobi

A new commuter train has been launched in Kenya to help ease the country’s ever-increasing congestion problems.

The new train service will run between Nairobi’s central business district to the middle class suburb of Syokimau, helping commuters beat the increasingly traffic-jammed roads in one of Africa’s fastest-growing cities. Nairobi was ranked the world’s fourth worst-city for traffic in a 2011 survey commissioned by IBM.

A brand new station have been built for the service, which takes 15 minutes to make the 16.5km journey. The  state of the art Syokimau station will see passengers issued with electronic tickets, which cost around $2.50. The station itself cost a reported 4.6 million dollars.

Nigerian President Mwai Kibaki was amongst the first passengers on the train’s maiden voyage, and the launch of the new train service is the latest step in Nigeria’s ambitious Vision 2030 infrastructure programme, designed to vastly improve the country’s dilapidated transport network over the next 18 years.

Construction has recently been completed on Kenya’s first eight-lane highway, built by a Chinese construction company, which links Nairobi to the important industrial town of Thika 40 km away, while the government plans a further 27 rail stations. However, the project is behind schedule and it is not yet clear when the full rain network will be completed.

The first new service has been well received so far, however. One of the first commuters, businesswoman Jessica Mwangangi, told AFP: “The reliability, convenience and ease in movement are worth every shilling… from now on, I will be using my car only over the weekends.”

Timothy Muriuki, chairman of the Nairobi Central Business District Association added: “Up to 50 million shillings (580,000 dollars) are lost to traffic everyday by both individuals and businesses…If the new service can help us save even a fraction of this amount, we will be better off.”

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