John and Margaret Cooper are currently in Kenya. Here is an account of their experience of catching Kenya’s “Chinese Train” the modern replacement of the British narrow-guage railway (of man-eating lions fame) built at the turn of the 19th century, in its day a memorable, well-recorded experience in itself.

The only certainty in life is that the Madaraka Express (built and managed by China) will leave on time. The gates are closed mercilessly before departure, late-comers left behind in shock, unused to such un-African precision.

By contrast, getting to the train at the crack of dawn is a matter of unknowns. How heavy is the traffic? Where is the turn-off to the station (no signage)? Which is the passenger entrance? Leave all this to a local driver and add 30 mins to their travel time estimate and pray). Will the sniffer dogs be on time for the first of three security checks? At the second, will they try to confiscate my (MEC’s) hair spray again? The tin says inflammable. But, I beseech the guard, “Mama, what about my beauty?” This brings laughter, the spray almost ends up in another person’s suitcase and I seem to be able to clutch it gratefully. Finally, will the tickets print out (the website is malfunctioning and cannot issue confirmation of purchase or ticket numbers at present)???

Help with heavy luggage or wheelchairs is like gold dust. How do passengers in China manage, one wonders. John’s solution is to grumble loudly in Swahili until innate African courtesy and respect for white hair overcomes the Chinese rules apparently to stand and watch people struggle.

The train leaves on time and the staff on the platform stand to attention in smart uniforms.

HS2: this is what you will get if the government accepts China’s offer to complete it.

Best wishes to all
Margaret and John