Features We’d Love to See in Madaraka’s Online Booking Portal

Image by Micheal Khateli

The Madaraka Express Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) has been around for some time and in that period, we have covered a couple of its aspects in terms of what they offer and their set of setbacks. Some of these merits have manifested themselves in many forms, including fair prices between the two cities where the train operates. Compared to existing public transport systems, you will get to your destinations faster using Madaraka. There are other benefits, including picking a cabin that matches the content of your wallet, to mention a few. On the other hand, booking for a trip has proved hectic thanks to several reasons that we aired in this post.

To recap, Madaraka promised an online booking system that is yet to go live, meaning customers have to use other methods to secure a seat. Those methods are not seamless, which is something we have come to expect of first-generation products. For example, paying for a ticket via M-PESA is unnecessarily hectic. You have to jump a couple of hurdles where calls to Madaraka’s customer care agents are needlessly error-prone (your calls are ignored, dropped and go unreturned), and if you fail to inform them about a group trip, say a family with kids, you may end up in different cabins. So, keep that in mind.

Based on these assertions, it becomes clear that one of the primary solutions that Madaraka can implement to alleviate these booking constraints is via an online booking system that we are still patiently waiting for. Whatever is slowing down its deployment should offer customers with a state of the art system because people need to reserve seats from anywhere, with peace of mind that does not include a broken process where clients are forced to call for support. Let’s admit that this is how things should be done in a world where trains are embracing technology and tasks are accomplished with a few clicks.

Accordingly, we really hope that Madaraka’s online booking system will incorporate some features discussed in the following paragraphs. It should be noted that while the website is up, there isn’t much you can do other than see what its full implementation will offer as we wait for the official unveiling.

Real-Time Booking

As we mentioned in this post, travelers who book a seat via Madaraka’s customer care agents have to do so from 7AM to 4PM. That strict time frame cannot fit everyone’s calendar. An online booking system can address this issue because customers can reserve seats when it is convenient for them, and receive confirmation instantly. Ideally, this implementation kills a couple of birds with one big stone; it is faster and rids a customer of customer care brawls in the form of enquiries.

Text-Based and Email Confirmation/Alerts

As highlighted in the M-PESA booking methodology piece, customers receive payment and booking confirmation texts, which is fine, but we would love to see an online booking system payment automate these services. Admittedly, standard procedure calls for delivery of confirmation, reminder and follow up (which you have to do in person or make a phone, which is not toll free). This is a lot of administrative work that Madaraka has gotten itself into, but that can be remedied by plugging in an automation feature in its online portal.

In the same line of thought, some things are best done via email. For instance, sending out confirmation information via text is not the best way to convey a customer’s order details. This is why Madaraka needs to customize emails to send out, which should also go in line with its business brand. Then…

Merged Customer Communication

In reference to this article, we mentioned the pains that Madaraka customers go through when booking for a trip, and that trouble was mostly attributed to lax communication between the booking department and customers. For this reason, it is important that an online booking system explores the implementation a unified database for booking and communication. In addition, we are looking forward to a system that can send automated and personalized emails so that customer care agents can follow up on the latest communication that has taken place with a traveler in question. This should address delays brought about by going through a certain query afresh.

Robust Payment Options

When it goes live, the online booking portal will accept payment via M-PESA, VISA, MasterCard and AMEX. In principle, this options will accommodate a lot of people. M-PESA itself has an ever-increasing customer base based on sector statistics report ended in March 2017, but why are other mobile money services missing? Airtel Money, anyone? A nice addition we would love to see is the inclusion of PayPal because it is one of the easiest ways customers can pay for a trip and is a standard across the globe, which should come as a plus for international clients. By doing so, Madaraka will bump its validity, and prove that it values customer security and privacy.

Smartphone App

As internet penetration gains new grounds based on affordable connectivity packages and smartphone deals, it will make so much sense for Madaraka’s online booking system to have a complementary smartphone app for world’s major mobile operating systems (iOS, Android and the Windows Mobile for the two Kenyans using that platform). In a world where internet access via mobile handhelds has surpassed traffic via PCs, a fully functional Madaraka Express SGR app with a modern design and a full-featured package should be written. Having information such as train ticket availability, status reports, seat and cabin availability a click away is awesome. Do you know how much time it will save?

To sum it up, an online booking system with these features, among others that we have not mentioned, should help Madaraka Express SGR Train manage its business in the simplest way possible, as well as offering a way for customers to reserve their seats with ease.

We will alert you once it goes live, in addition to exploring its offerings. Stay tuned.

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Kenn Abuya is a friend of technology, with bias in enterprise and mobile tech. Share your thoughts, tips and hate mail at [email protected]


  1. Do you have a link to the unlaunched platform, I hope their mpesa payment account numbers don’t contain letters I and o,many times I have had to call jambojet or kq since I confused I for 1 and o for 0

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