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Kenyan parents traveling with their young children from Nairobi to Mombasa or between Kenyan towns have found convenience in the standard gauge railway trains.
The Madaraka trains, categorized into two, that is express to Nairobi or Mombasa and inter-county offer daily services on the routes.
The comfort and safety on the trains have made parents traveling with their children a happy lot, as compared to using public transport vehicles which takes longer hours.
And those parents traveling to Mombasa or from Nairobi with their children achieve more than just traveling conveniently from one town to another.
The trip is no different from taking children on safari (sight-seeing), thanks to the train that journeys through the forests, spectacular hills and wildlife parks offering breathtaking views.
"Since the train service was started about two years ago, I have taken my three children to Mombasa to their aunt four times," Moses Mutua, a government worker in Nairobi, said recently.
Before the train was introduced, Mutua would dread at the thought of traveling with his three children by road and had taken them to the Coast once in four years.
"It is the convenience of the train that has made me confident. I travel with them and make the return journey alone. Their aunt then brings them back," he said.
She also brings Mutuas' two nephews to Nairobi during school holidays, with Mutua taking them back.
"Children, including the babies, remain comfortable on the train because the journey only takes four hours to Mombasa or Nairobi," he said.
By bus, the journey normally takes sometimes more than double the time and it makes children extremely tired.
"As they travel, I normally show them the wild animals I spot along the way like giraffes, making the trip more of a sightseeing tour," he said.
Journalist Paul Maundu who works in Kibwezi in Makueni County noted that the inter-county service has enabled him to regularly bring his children to Nairobi to see the city.
"It is a 40 minutes' journey and one is comfortable throughout the journey. Three months do not end without me taking my three children to Nairobi," he said.
The trip to Nairobi on train has become one of the incentives he uses to make his children perform well in school.
"The eldest is in class five, the second born in class four and the last born in class one. I tell them that they all have to perform well so that they can travel as a group. If one fails, we don't take the trip," he explained, noting that he would not make such trips by bus.
The fare of the service is also affordable, with Madaraka Express passenger service economy class fares being 10 U.S. dollars.
According to the Kenya Railways Corporation, children below three years travel for free while those aged between three and 11 years pay half fare for both first and economy class. Those aged over 11 years pay full fare.
Amos Mureithi, a businessman and frequent traveler to Mombasa using the standard gauge railway train, noted that one thing that stands out for him is the high number of children in the coaches.
"I don't see it in buses or even the plane. This means the train filled a gap that had stayed open for years," he said, adding that the free or half-fare payment for children below 11 years is another motivator for parents.
This article first appeared on www.xinhuanet.com
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