Kenya Railways has reached a deal with Safaricom for paybill numbers that will allow travellers to pay from home and get tickets at the station
Previously, passengers could only book by paying cash at the ticketing offices in Nairobi or Mombasa.
Passengers travelling on the Madaraka Express trains between Nairobi to Mombasa will from Wednesday pay their fares via M-Pesa, removing a hurdle that had opened the ticketing business to middlemen.
“M-Pesa payments will be ready from today. Safaricom team is on the ground finalising training for 20 ticket issuers who will be based at our stations. We also intend to bring on board Telkom Kenya and Airtel going forward,” said Kenya Railways managing director Atanas Maina.
“We are interacting with various service providers and we will be able to see how online payment systems will now interface with our ticketing system.”
About nine paybill accounts will be available, representing each terminal. Once a payment is made, a passenger will get a reference number, which he or she will use to get a ticket at the station.
The tickets have a travel date and time but no name. They also include travel class, carriage and seat numbers. An economy-class ticket costs Sh700 while a first-class one goes for Sh3,000.
The booking point had paved the way for middlemen, who are reportedly buying tickets at Sh700 and selling them at Sh1,000 outside the railway terminuses.
Claims of an artificial shortage that makes it seem like the wagons are fully booked have been rife since Thursday last week. The trains have become popular with passengers due to low promotional prices and quicker travel, a situation that has left hundreds stranded at the stations.
The express train slashed travel time for the 472km journey to about four hours from 12 on the line built more than a century ago and stretches from Mombasa to Uganda’s capital Kampala. The older line is operated by Rift Valley Railways.
The express line also provides businesses and passengers a cheaper and safer alternative to the single-lane highway between Nairobi and Mombasa that is often clogged with cargo trucks.