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New commuter rail service in Nairobi

Posted by on Nov 19, 2012 in Accessibility, All news, Funding, Rail, Sub-Saharan Africa, Sustainability, Urban planning |

Kenya has launched the first new commuter rail service since independence from British colonial rule – but there are worries that only better off people can afford to use it.

Planned as the first stage of an eight-station commuter service in Nairobi, the 16.5 kilometre (ten mile) route between the Syokimau suburb and the central business district began taking passengers this week.

The journey time is 20 minutes, much less than the equivalent road journey, which can take up to two hours on roads that one study showed to be the fourth most congested in the world.

The main controversy concerns the fare. Kenya Railways claims that the fare – between 100 and 120 shillings one way, about US$1.30 – makes it the cheapest option on the route, if all the costs of motoring are taken into account.

But others say it is possible to get a bus for half that amount, and that the service will therefore only benefit those who can afford it.

Against that, however, the Kenyan government – which is investing in the new commuter infrastructure, with support from the World Bank – points to the wider and longer-term benefits of reducing journey times, congestion and carbon emissions.

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