Flagship Kenya train welcomes back riders

2020-07-14 12:28:11
Summary:Kenya's Standard Gauge Railway, or SGR, resumed its passenger services on Monday morning, one week after Kenya...
Kenya's Standard Gauge Railway, or SGR, resumed its passenger services on Monday morning, one week after Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta relaxed measures to contain the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The SGR train left Nairobi at 8 am with top government officials and managers from the Kenya Railways at hand to supervise the resumption while ensuring that the safety guidelines issued by the ministries of health and transport were strictly adhered to.

Speaking at the Nairobi Terminus ahead of the resumption of services, Philip Mainga, managing director at Kenya Railways, said that the reopening follows the directive by the minister of transport to have SGR passenger services resume after the cessation of movement into and out of Nairobi was lifted.

"We submitted our operation protocols to both the ministries of health and transport and received the necessary clearance. As you can see, we are observing high levels of sanitization and all passengers have to wash their hands and have their temperature checked before entering the station," Mainga said.

"In addition, we have clear markings to help people observe social distancing and our staff have been provided with special protective clothing because they will be with the passengers all the way to Mombasa," he added.

Mainga said that in keeping with the social distancing guidelines, the train carried only 600 passengers amounting to half of the train's capacity, with 10 coaches deployed including eight economy coaches and two first-class coaches.

An additional coach was set aside to be used to isolate passengers suspected to be infected with the coronavirus, Mainga added.

'Make it quicker'

Judith Kirimi, a passenger who had booked a ticket for the first journey since the pandemic struck, said she was happy to be able to travel again, but wanted the authorities to streamline the screening process to make it quicker.

"It is understandable that being the first day of travel since coronavirus ... there would be some hiccups but they should ensure that washing hands and going through the corona checks does not consume a lot of time," Kirimi said.

"I am a student and my family is in Mombasa and when the cessation of movement was announced, I could not travel back home. That is why I have taken advantage of this opportunity to go and be with my family."

According to Mainga, sacrifices have to be made in the wake of the pandemic because a return to normalcy and full operations will have to be gradual.

"Despite being fully booked, we have to operate at half capacity and though it might be an economic disadvantage, it is better than having no services at all," Mainga said.

"In addition, our freight service has been running smoothly during the pandemic and that has somehow cushioned us against the economic effects of the virus."

SGR passenger services were suspended on April 7 after Kenyatta announced the cessation of movement into and out of the Nairobi Metropolitan Area, Mombasa County and Mandera County.

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