The Past the present and the politics (The Train II)
So been 2 years after we made a promise to bring you our thoughts on the new train, which we are sure most of you have used and you all have your comments about it.
We actually get it, the lunatic express was one thing you would never want to touch even with a 10ft pole because of all the sad stories we know about. Yes it was slow, yes it would breakdown anywhere, yes it had nothing modern even the slightest of things, heck lights would be switched off at 8am for reasons known to the management and we all agree little or nothing has been done to improve those trains since we got independence. That train was right from the pages of ancient history, having used the train close to 5 times, I bet if you would breathe in deeply you would smell the pre and post – colonial travelers who used the train and if you think we are lying goggle is your friend, read how far this train had deteriorated due to lack of maintenance. The good thing is that it worked or rather it was forced to work since Kenya had no other rail facility. We however would wish to say the lunatic had its good moments that would make us use it again particularly now we have experience with the new train. And yes it still operates in very very special circumstances.
Fast forward to 2017 and Kenya gets a new train facility. Its a step forward. A train that actually keeps time thanks to one, the technology its build on and two the fact that maybe not Africans are running it since Africans are known not to keep time.
The Standard gauge rail is not a new technology really, other countries been on it. The rail itself is wider than our former rail, which was only about a meter wide. Physics has it that the wider it is the higher the speeds due to the lowered center of gravity. This technology also prevents the train from derailing at high speeds (stability), this is the same ideology people have that short people rarely fall because they are closer to the ground, which is to do with the COG
The engine might be new but not so aerodynamic and still powered by our local jungle juice. The good thing is so far its working pretty well and we have not heard of major stalls or issues apart from the occasional incidents with nature.
This section was to hold a small rant of what the future might be but in kenya we live one day at a time and every day we have to deal with politics of all sorts that make us loose our vision for the future. Never the less other countries are moving ahead with electric and magnetic trains, trains that get to can get to 300km/hr and others even thinking of hyperloops.
Anyhow we have a feeling that 90% of those who’ve used the train did so it to kill the curiosity, tick off something from their bucket list and maybe take pictures but they might never use it again and here are our reasons.
First off let us give credit where it’s due, the trains and they stations are spectacular. The stations are a fresh breath of something modern and close to an airport feel. Unlike in the older train, the officials are neatly dressed and you actually communicate.
Step into the coaches, they are well lit, clean and the air condition works fine. There is a PA system that actually works and a lady keeps talking to you throughout the trip.
But this is why i might never take the train again, this is a 5 hour trip; the second class seats are extremely very uncomfortable. The seats are almost at a 90-degree angle and as hard as the Nairobi county public seats. I don’t know who gave them the idea that seats facing each other are classy and matters worse they follow the 2+3 sitting formation. Here is the problem with seats that face each other and lack enough space between them; you can never stretch your legs because the person sitting in front of you might sue you for sexual harassment so you have then to sit like a robot waiting for the next </command>, woe unto you if you are tall. In the older train you had a whole cube to yourself to do all the gymnastics you want and a whole veranda to skate on if you so wished. Additionally it is not fun to sit facing a stranger for 5 hours. There is a small protruding thing from the wall that i guess was meant to be a table.
The first class however, all the seats face one direction and are better than the second class in many ways but then we can’t all afford it. There is a buffet car, which only the first class enjoy. In the older train, this car was for everyone as long as you have paid for the meals, which to me is the fairer thing to do. It might not be complete so i can bear the burden for now, but the idea of having train stations miles outside the CBD is not pleasing. We were meant to improve efficiency right? How well, the cost of using SGR to Mombasa is Ksh 3000 for 1st class and Ksh 1000 for second class. You will need to add an additional Ksh 1000 to take you to the terminus and vice versa when you arrive. Children between 3yrs old and 11yrs old get half price for either classes.
I don’t know about you but i would just go down to River Road, get a comfortable, recline-able seat, free bottle of water and enjoy a trip with no strange faces in front of me in one of the bus companies that go down that route for less that amount and hustle.
#What you missed
So if you have never used the old train, these are some of the few rich things you missed
The heritage – The Lunatic express had a rich and lovely story. It had an X factor that you would only experience in it if you look beyond its age. All along the train ride you would actually feel the greatness and a feeling of victory that is written all over the train’s history.
The Lunatic express had little cubes in each car that would accommodate 4 people. The cubes had sleepers which we also comfortable enough to serve the function of a seat. The coaches had their own issues, which some seriousness from the authorities would have easily fixed them.
Windows in the new train are not easily accessible. The old train however, one would easily access the widows and because when the rail was being built they went for flat grounds you can stick you head out and take pictures as it curves and turns. The search of flat grounds saw the rail line roll deep into the Tsavo game park, which acts as an interesting detour – adding flavor to your trip
But that’s just us what do you think of the new facility
Pic credit Nairobi Safaris