NAIROBI, March 4 (Xinhua) -- For the last two months, a government worker George Agutu, who works in Mombasa, Kenya's coastal city, has traveled to the capital Nairobi every weekend to be with his family.
However, before this, it would take Agutu months to make a journey due to a ban on night travel by the government in efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19.
"I now conveniently take the standard gauge railway night train to Nairobi on Friday night to be with my family or back to work on Sunday," Agutu, an auditor, said recently. Kenya Railways in conjunction with Chinese firm Afristar, which runs the train, started the night service in January.
The night train service has come as a blessing to many Kenyan families that had silently suffered due to restrictions caused by the pandemic.
Philip Mainga, Kenya Railways managing director, said the night train was launched to ease travel and complement the other train services. The service was expected to boost business between the two cities, including tourism.
The night train normally departs Mombasa and Nairobi at 10 pm to arrive at either of the destinations at about 4 am. At about 8 pm, tens of passengers streamed into the station to be screened in line with COVID-19 protocols before boarding the train.
With the curfew in place, no buses ply the Mombasa-Nairobi route or any other across Kenya. Thus, the SGR train is the only mover of night travelers after the government exempted it from curfew rules. "Things are now much better, I take the train to Nairobi on Friday night and to Mombasa on Sunday night," said Agutu, noting the 950 shillings (8.66 U.S. dollars) fare is much affordable.
Businesspersons ferrying goods in between the two cities are also relishing the convenience of the train. And for Kenyans going for seminars and conferences in Mombasa or Nairobi, they no longer need to travel a day earlier to spend the night at their destinations in readiness for the meetings.
"It is now easier, you take the night train and arrive way before time to freshen up and attend the meeting that morning," said journalist Justus Maundu, who attended a meeting in Mombasa in February.
The night travel is set to boost passenger numbers for SGR in 2021, with 2020 usage having been disrupted by the pandemic.
Some 720,000 passengers used the train in 2020, down from 1.59 million in 2019, according to statistics provided by the Kenya Railways. - Xinhua