by Christine Lagat
NAIROBI, May 31 (Xinhua) -- Rose Wangalya was in buoyant mood on Wednesday morning when the sound of drum beats accompanied by patriotic ballads rent the air to pave way for the inaugural journey of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) passenger train from the port city of Mombasa to the capital Nairobi.
The mother of one savored every moment as the ultra-modern train snaked through picturesque landscapes while carrying dignitaries including President Uhuru Kenyatta who had earlier launched its maiden journey at the Mombasa terminus.
During an interview with Xinhua aboard the SGR passenger train, Wangalya said her patriotism and self esteem received new vitality thanks to the historic ride through a vessel that she had only learnt of its existence through books and movies.
"This is a historic ride that I will forever cherish and I wish my relatives and friends had accompanied me as we celebrate a monumental leap forward in this country," Wangalya said.
She is a senior nursing officer in ministry of health and together with several colleagues conducted basic medical tests to passengers inside the SGR passenger train.
Born and raised in Western Kenya, Wangalya belongs to a generation of Kenyans who have unpleasant memories of riding on old and rickety wagons while making lengthy journeys.
She revealed that on numerous occasions she endured agony and stress while riding on the old passenger train from her ancestral village in western Kenya to Mombasa to visit relatives.
"To be honest, a journey from western Kenya to the coast using the old trains bequeathed to us by the British colonialists was not only agonizing but also sapped the last ounce of energy in me," said Wangalya.
The career nurse said she felt honored to be among few privileged Kenyans who took part in the historic ride from Mombasa to Nairobi through the SGR passenger train whose speed and comfort was profound.
"It felt like a dream come true when the train took off from the Mombasa terminus and I slowly reconciled with the new dawn of a modern railway transport in this country," Wangalya told Xinhua.
President Uhuru Kenyatta flagged off the SGR passenger train at the Mombasa terminus on Wednesday morning amid fanfare.
During a stopover at Voi Station to address a public rally, the Kenyan leader said the launch of the SGR passenger train laid the foundation for unprecedented transformation in the East Africa's largest economy.
"The SGR passenger and cargo trains will transform this country after a century of stagnation in railway development. They will lay the foundation for industrial growth through establishment of a dry port and special economic zones in the interior," Kenyatta remarked.
Kenyans from all walks of life and overseas friends took part in the historic SGR passenger train ride from Mombasa to Nairobi amid great excitement, rekindled patriotism and unity of purpose.
Joseph Mukuria, a 55-year-old business man involved in export of horticultural produce was granted an opportunity to ride in the modern train and savored its ambience, comfort and speed.
During an interview with Xinhua, Mukuria said he was optimistic the SGR passenger and cargo trains will accelerate growth of his business thanks to efficient supply chains.
"As a businessman, I feel excited to witness the launch of SGR trains that will decongest our roads and the port of Mombasa. It will now be easier to deliver orders on time and at a cheaper cost," said Mukuria.
He regretted that he used to spend 1,500 dollars to ferry a container of flowers from Nairobi to Mombasa port but will now be spending roughly a third of the money through the SGR cargo train.
"I look forward to a promising era in floriculture now that the logistical hiccups that eroded our profit margins have been eliminated by the SGR cargo train," said Mukuria, adding that he intends to tap into opportunities unleashed by SGR to expand his business and employ more Kenyans.