After six years of operation, Kenya Railways has decided to implement a significant fare increase for the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) system, citing the rising costs of fuel as the primary driver.

This move comes at a challenging time for Kenyan citizens, who are already grappling with a high cost of living, and it is likely to pose a considerable financial burden on budget-conscious individuals.

Starting from next year, commuters traveling between Nairobi and Mombasa, or vice versa, will be required to pay Ksh1,500 for a one-way ticket in the economy class and Ksh4,500 for business class.

PCS Musalia Mudavadi and Transport CS Kipchumba Murkomen at the Nairobi Railway Station. Image| courtesy.
PCS Musalia Mudavadi and Transport CS Kipchumba Murkomen at the Nairobi Railway Station. Image| courtesy.

The rationale behind this fare hike is rooted in the fluctuations within the energy and petroleum sector, particularly the substantial increase in fuel prices, which have directly impacted the operational costs of the SGR, according to SGR.

The SGR has long been favoured for its efficiency and the shorter travel time it offers between Kenya’s coast and Nairobi.

However, this fare revision might prompt passengers to explore alternative transportation options, such as road or air travel.

For instance, a one-way bus ticket to Mombasa costs approximately Ksh1,600, which may be a more cost-effective choice when considering the additional expenses involved in reaching the train terminus via services like Uber.

Furthermore, passengers accustomed to traveling in the first class may find it more financially viable to invest a little extra to opt for air travel, especially during seasons when flight ticket prices are at their lowest. Airfares can drop to as low as Ksh4,500 during off-peak periods.

The fare adjustments also extend to passengers using the Nairobi commuter rail service and the Kisumu and Nanyuki safari trains.

Even those who make advance bookings will not escape the revised fare structure, as it has been implemented effective immediately.

In terms of specifics, first-class fares for various routes have been adjusted, such as Nairobi to Mariakani (Sh4,310), Athi River to Mombasa (Sh4,340), Emali to Mombasa (Sh3,350), and Voi to Mombasa (Sh1,320).

In the economy class, fares for the same routes are now set at Nairobi to Mariakani (Sh1,500), Athi River to Mombasa (Sh1,430), Emali to Mombasa (Sh1,100), and Voi to Mombasa (Sh440).

Additionally, for children aged between three and eleven traveling with adults, the fare is half the adult price, while those above eleven years are required to pay the full fare.

Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics reveals that in the first quarter of 2022, the passenger and cargo trains generated revenue of Sh3.65 billion.

This represented a slight decrease from the Ksh3.66 billion earned between January and March in the previous year.

Notably, cargo trains were responsible for the majority of the revenue generated in the first quarter of 2022, accounting for Ksh3.08 billion, which represents 84 percent of the total revenue, while passenger services contributed Ksh569.27 million.

gandae@businessdayafrica.org