Peterson Mwangi Ngunyi, 74, boarded the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) passenger train that was headed to Mombasa on May 11, 2021.
The elderly man, who is mentally ill, took the 8am Madaraka Express to the coastal city from the Nairobi terminus in Syokimau.
How he managed to beat the stringent checks through the Nairobi terminal using an invalid ticket, only to be kicked out of the train along the way is the biggest puzzle that has brought Kenya Railways and the Chinese operator to fresh public scrutiny.
Kenya Railways says Mr Mwangi boarded the train that early morning inter-county from Nairobi to Mombasa. During a routine ticket inspection on the train, the operators realised that Mr Mwangi was in possession of an invalid ticket.
“The invalid ticket belonged to a passenger who had travelled the previous day from Mombasa to Nairobi,” Kenya Railways said in a statement. But it did not explain how it was possible for Mr Mwangi to go through all the checks at the Nairobi terminus before getting on the train with an invalid ticket.
Kenya Railways said that its procedure dictates that any passenger found with an invalid ticket on the train is required to either pay for the ticket at the destination, or alight at the nearest station.
The train crew asked the 74 year old to call his family members to pay for his journey but he had neither a phone nor any contact through which he could get assistance. Under pressure from the crew, Mr Mwangi decided to alight at Athi River Station. But being sick, he did not know where to go and is now missing, three days later.
Mr Mwangi’s family have since filed a missing person’s report with the police. Kenya Railways insists that it was not notified that the passenger had any special needs and that the procedure requires that any person in need of special attention should be accompanied by their kin or if travelling unaccompanied, the kin should notify the train crew ahead of time.
“We wish to clarify that KR officers treated the passenger with utmost respect and followed the necessary procedures put in place when such incidents occur,” Kenya Railways said.
“We wish to notify our esteemed customers that we do not take this matter lightly and are working closely with the police who have circulated the missing person report to all police stations countrywide in the hope of reuniting Mr Mwangi with his family,” the authority added.
This is not the first time the train has been caught on the wrong side of things. In the early days of its operations, there were reports of passengers who died on the train due to lack of medical support and an ill prepared crew in the cases of emergencies.