31 May 2017

Kenya: Six Unusual Things You Will See On SGR Train

Photo: SGR
The Mombasa terminus.

President Uhuru Kenyatta will today launch the standard gauge railway passenger train service at the Miritini station in Mombasa.

The President is expected to travel by train to Nairobi in the company of senior government and Chinese officials ahead of Madaraka Day celebrations in Nyeri on Thursday.

Here are odd things you will see on the train.

Language and translation

In most train services around the world, messages and announcements are routinely delivered in local languages with translations in English.

The SGR though has its oddities, messages in English have been translated partially into Kiswahili. For instance 'Kituo Cha Mombasa Terminus' or 'Watoto Carriage' at Mtito Andei Station.

Could someone have ignored local experts and chose an android translator app? We may never know but the Chinese are running the train so anything could be possible.

Also to note on language use, is that the attendants on board are trained to speak in Chinese and English.

Locomotive drivers

As a way of making the train attractive, SGR operators have been training young Kenyans to drive the locomotive under their watch. The inaugural train to be boarded by President Uhuru Kenyatta is driven by two young Kenyan women aged 27 and 23. They recently graduated from the Railways Training Institute under tutelage of the, Chinese.

No hawking

Kenyans used to travelling to the countryside by road know that they must stop at certain towns to buy roast maize, tea or meat. Sometimes hawkers are allowed into the buses to sell their wares.

On the SGR, it is a culture shock. Hawkers are not just banned onto trains, they are not even allowed into stations. So, travellers must pray that shops are set up very trains at stations.

No depositing tissue into toilet bowls

The SGR train may be a self-contained set of coaches where you can dine, sleep, read or do bathroom stuff.

But that is mostly in the ideal. The toilets cannot flash away the dirt and they clog from time to time even with disposable tissue.

What is worse, there are no gents or ladies, just toilets. So everyone must pray the deposited stuff flows away before the next passengers comes.

No opening windows

It moves like a car and behaves like a bus on a highway. But that is where similarities end. Passengers on buses may open windows but the SGR train has a strict policy not to try it. The windows here are in fact fixed but attendants keep reminding passengers not to open. The idea may be about maintaining room temperature and pressure or something like that.

Distance to train stations

At a maximum speed of 120km per hour, the train can take about four hours to complete the 472km from Mombasa to the last stop in Nairobi - Syokimau Station. But but how long will it take you to reach city centre?

Probably another two hours depending on traffic. The SGR is being launched to ease and speed up movement of goods and services. But passengers will have to travel to the outskirts of their town centres to board them. In Nairobi, the terminus is in Syokimau. In Mombasa, it is in Miritini, an isolated area near mangroves where the government has only recently started building roads there.

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