The introduction of the Standard Gauge Railway from Nairobi to Mombasa was a great idea for the average traveller who likes traversing in between these two cities. It used to take 10 hours to travel from Nairobi to Mombasa and in case of an accident on the road, the hours would be more. Night travel was the main way to get to Mombasa in case you have duties to fulfil during the day and at times it would require you to look for accommodation as you may not get transport to travel back in time.
Now the SGR train moves from Nairobi to Mombasa twice a day taking fewer hours than the buses but at the same speed. A train schedule revision was done recently resulting in a morning train and an afternoon train for great convenience. This new schedule also came with simplified access to the SGR Nairobi Terminus from the Central Business District (CBD) also known as Nairobi city.
The SGR Train Schedule.
The project was ideally implemented to make travelling to the Coast easier and faster, hence was dubbed the Madaraka Express and takes fewer hours than road travel at the same cost. However, between Nairobi and Mombasa lies in different counties with various major towns that could also utilize this train. A second train to serve these counties was introduced dubbed the Intercounty train. There are 7 well-built stations where the intercounty train stops.
Recently, Kenya Railways introduced a new train schedule that will allow maximum use of the train and ensure the people living near this train get to benefit from it.
The new schedule sees the Intercounty train leaving Nairobi at 8.20 am and it is expected to stop in all the 7 stations for a maximum of 3 minutes for passengers to alight and board. This train hence takes 6 hours to go through all these stations arriving at its final destination at 2.14pm. The Mombasa train leaves the station at 8.00 am, making all the stops and arrives in Nairobi at 1.42pm.
The Madaraka express, on the other hand, does not make any stops on any of the stations. The express train leaves Nairobi at 2.35 pm arriving in Mombasa at 7.18pm while the Mombasa train leaves at 3.15 pm arriving in Nairobi at 8.14pm. This express train takes 4 hrs to reach its final destination.
Accessing the Train Terminus
The SGR always requires one to be at the terminus at least one hour before departure especially if you have not printed your ticket plus there is always the process of security checks that take place before one board the train. The Kenya Railways have put this into consideration and have organized a train that leaves the City Center railways terminus to the Syokimau terminus in good time.
Considering the distance of the Nairobi terminus from the city and the heavy traffic that it always witnessed on the road, it is more viable to access the SGR Syokimau train terminus through the City Center railways station and board the Syokimau train that leaves the station at exactly 6.30 am. The ride takes 45 minutes with a stop-over at the Madaraka Station for more people to board and the Imara Daima station.
This is the most convenient way to access the SGR train but if you are late for the 6.30 am the train, you can always board a matatu outside the Nairobi Railways station and be hopeful to make it before 8.05 am when the gate closes while beating the Mombasa road traffic.
When boarding the afternoon express train that leaves Nairobi at 2.35 pm, you can catch the afternoon Syokimau train from the city that departs at 12.00 pm arriving at the terminus 45 minutes later.
The fare for this train is only Kshs 50 a big contrast to what the matatus charge which varies between Kshs 70 to Kshs 150.
SGR Train Booking and Price
The SGR train has two sections; the First Class Section and the Economy Class Section.
The First Class section cost Kshs 3000 per head while the Second Class section cost Kshs 1000. Children below 3 years get in free while those between 3-11 years pay half price.
The major difference between the First Class and the Second Class section will be the number of people sitting per row as for First class has only 4 people while Second class sits five per row facing each other. The seats are also very different from the first class being very comfy as compared to the Second Class seats.
Other than that, food and drinks are sold in both sections at the same price with drinks ranging from Kshs 100 which include bottled water, soda, tea, coffee, juice and canned beer. Snacks range from Kshs 50 which include Mandazi, cake, Beef or Chicken sandwiches.
Booking of tickets can be done online 30 days prior to travel subject to availability of the seats with payment being made via Mpesa. It can also be done via the phone using the USSD code *639# with payment through Mpesa.
You can also visit the Train Terminus physically to make your booking for groups. If booked online, you need to be at the station early to print out your ticket. A valid National ID or Passport is needed when making the booking and the document used to book must be produced upon request at the station before boarding the train.
Point to Note:
No form of weapons, penknives, explosives or alcohol is allowed on the train and valid checks are done to ensure no one carries any at the time of boarding. The only alcohol consumed is the one bought inside the train.
The train station closes their gates 15 minutes before the train leaves and anyone who comes after the gate is closed is locked out. At the Nairobi terminus, there are Boda Boda riders who offer to chase the train to Athi River when one is locked out. Unless it’s very urgent, I would not recommend using these riders as they charge same amount as buying a new train ticket.
If taking the morning train to carry something that will make you comfortable and keep you entertained throughout the journey as 6 hours is a long time. Make sure you carry some food or have money to buy some snacks as they don’t give chances for one to go look for food outside the train even during its many stopovers.
Once at the Mombasa terminus, their various matatus plying different routes depending on where you are going with prices ranging from Kshs 100. There are also taxis and tuk-tuks if you need your own ride and also tour vans if travelling as a group willing to take you to up to your final destination.
I hope this information is helpful especially for first time SGR travellers and if you have any queries or concerns in regard to the information I have provided, kindly leave a comment below and I will gladly respond.