Kenya Railways has finally introduced an SMS payment option to enable passengers to book their Madaraka Express Train Tickets.
The SMS-based payment option also allows passengers traveling between Nairobi and Mombasa to cancel their tickets via their phones.
The SGR locomotives arrived in Kenya late last year and while this caused excitement in some circles, the rail ahead would be bumpy. There were numerous roadblocks.
These ranged from protests by conservationists who were opposed to SGR’s National Park route to the shade directed at the locomotives. Some even referred to them as ugly.
After the launch, middlemen happened. We sure didn’t see this coming.
Bad things can really happen to good things.
Well, until now.
The move by Kenya Railways to introduce the booking option has been motivated by, among other factors, the need to “counter secondary markets of tickets”. It has been reported that some middlemen have been cashing in on selling Madaraka express train tickets at a much higher price.
Reports indicate that the middlemen would buy out the Madaraka Express train tickets at the normal price of Ks. 700 and re-sell for as high as Ksh. 3,000.
Kenya Railways managing director Atanas Maina said that middlemen have taken advantage of the fact that tickets could only be bought at the train stations.
This will also be a convenient platform through which passengers can plan their trips and make bookings on time.
It gets better:
The new platform allows for multiple bookings – up to five – at a go. Also, passengers can also book tickets seven days in advance.
Passengers also have the option to cancel their Madaraka Express train ticket but they will incur a fine of 20% of the ticket price.
Mr. Maina added that Kenya Railways, courtesy of Safaricom, has nine M-PESA pay bill numbers that will allow passengers to buy tickets via their mobile phones.
Steps to book Madaraka Express train tickets via USSD
First, confirm you have enough money in your M-PESA for the tickets you want to purchase. Here is a fare structure:
Madaraka Express Train Fares:
First Class: Ksh. 3,000
Economy Class: Ksh. 700
Below 3 Years: FREE
Age between 3 – 11 Years:
- First class: Ksh: 1,500
- Economy class: Ksh 350
Above 11 Years:
First class: Ksh. 3,000
Economy class: Ksh. 700
- Dial *639# from your mobile phone.
- Follow the prompts to specify your National ID number, preferred date of travel, destination, cabin, and other requested details.
- Next, select the payment method and make the payment
- Wait for a confirmation of your booking via SMS. This will feature a unique reference number with specific details such as destination, time and date of travel, and the number of passengers. This message should not be deleted as you will need the reference number to print your ticket at the station.
This system requires those making bookings to provide their official names and National ID numbers, well, except for minors.
On arrival at the station, passengers will be required to print their tickets. This will be done at the service booths. To do this, they will need their National ID.
While all this is great news, we cannot pretend that there’s no elephant in the room. It is too big to be disregarded that easily. Since the SGR was launched, talks of an online booking portal have been ongoing.
The wait has been quite long.
Mr. Maina has assured passengers that an online booking platform is in its trial stage and will be launched in a few weeks.