NAIROBI, Dec. 23 (Xinhua) -- Mike Otieno walked briskly to the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) booking office in Nairobi at the sunset on Saturday in the hope of securing a ticket to travel to the coastal city of Mombasa for family reunion over the festive season.
The Nairobi-based entrepreneur in his mid-20s was elated when the booking clerks assured him that there were a few tickets up for grabs following last minute cancellations by previous holders.
Otieno looked forward to traveling to Mombasa using the SGR commuter trains dubbed Madaraka Express for the first time with excitement after having heard from friends about the joy and thrills accompanying the four and half hours ride.
"I'm here to negotiate for a ticket to travel to Mombasa a day before Christmas," he said.
"I will be spending more than seven days in Mombasa for holidays and connect with some of my relatives who live there."
The expansive booking office at the Nairobi SGR Terminus was a beehive of activities as potential travelers exchanged pleasantries while waiting for their turn to be served by ticketing clerks.
"So many people including my close relatives and friends have narrated to me the wonderful experience of traveling to Mombasa using the SGR passenger service." said Otieno.
Kenya's SGR commuter services have resonated with Christmas travelers for the second year running given its affordability, unrivalled comfort, speed and safety.
The modern commuter train service which was launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta on May 31 last year, has so far ferried more than two million passengers along the Chinese-built 480 km Mombasa-Nairobi railway.
John Mwenja, a booking clerk at the Nairobi SGR Terminus, said that the festive season witnessed a huge demand for tickets among Kenyan holidaymakers keen to spend quality time in the coastal beaches.
"This festive season has been very busy for us at the booking office. Both the inter-county and express trains are fully booked till the end of December. However, several last-minute passengers have benefited from cancellations," said Mwenja.
He revealed that Madaraka Express operator has come up with innovative measures to accommodate the surging number of passengers in this festive season, which includes increasing the number of coaches.
"It is our hope that commuters will enjoy the ride as we endeavor to provide outstanding service," said Mwenja.
Joseph Maluki, an accountant with a Nairobi-based listed company, had travelled to the Nairobi SGR Terminus on Saturday to enquire about the status of his ticket that he had secured late November.
The father of two said he planned to spend the festive season in Mombasa with his family after a year marked with grueling work and frequent overseas trips.
"I have used the SGR commuter train several times during my business trips to Mombasa but it will be different this Christmas holiday," said Maluki.
As a frequent traveler with the modern train, Maluki has grown accustomed to its atmosphere that includes comfortable seats, friendly crew and unhindered interaction with passengers.
Maureen Jeroph, a booking clerk at the Nairobi SGR Terminus, said that the large number of Mombasa bound passengers using Madaraka Express reaffirmed its enduring impact on local travel, commerce and tourism.
"I would confidently say that we booked a higher number of travelers this festive season compared to the previous year and that is a remarkable feat," said Jeroph.
"The SGR train service is connecting our people as it makes travel between Nairobi and Mombasa a memorable experience," Jeroph added.
Minutes later, it was Lucy's turn to be served by Jeroph. The business administration major in her early 20s requested to be updated on the status of her ticket to Mombasa where she intended to spend a week with a group of friends.
"I booked my ticket in mid-November and looked forward to a thrilling beach holiday with friends," said Lucy.