By Judith Gicobi
According to data from the Kenya Railways Corporation, bookings on the standard gauge railway (SGR) has more than doubled last year due to increased transit between Nairobi and Mombasa when Covid containment procedures were loosened.
Passenger ticket sales increased by 146 percent to over two million in 2020, compared to 811,552 in 2020, helping to improve beach tourism in a year when locals contributed 65 percent of tourist revenues to Sh146.51 billion.
The operator of the line from Mombasa to Suswa in Naivasha, China Road and Bridge Corporation, made Sh2.20 billion in sales to travelers, a 145.58 percent increase over Sh896.03 million a year before.
Bookings for SGR travel between Nairobi and Mombasa, Kenya’s resort city, were down in 2020 due to Covid regulations, which included a lengthier midnight curfew and other limitations. According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), total revenues for freight and passenger services totaled Sh15.44 billion in the 12-month period ending last December, up from Sh13.33 billion the previous year.
This comes after freight services brought in Sh13.24 billion in the year under review, up 6.49 percent from Sh12.44 billion the previous year.
Cargo service charges averaged Sh2, 439.10 per ton, down from Sh375.51 or 13.34 percent in 2020.
The major economic argument for President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration pumping $3.6 billion (Sh410.5 billion) into the first phase of the project through loans secured from Exim Bank of China starting in May 2014 was freight services.
Importers have balked at the tariffs to transport goods from the Port of Mombasa to the Inland Container Depot (ICD) in Nairobi and Suswa for largely consignments destined for western Kenya and neighboring countries such as Uganda and Rwanda, and the SGR line has struggled to entice sufficient cargo volumes.