Shipping & Logistics

Why matatus feel threatened by new Nairobi transport plan

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Isuzu East Africa's high-capacity buses specifically designed for the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) system in Kenya. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU

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Summary

  • One of the key plans is by the Nairobi Metropolitan Authority (Namata) which plans to procure large capacity vehicles for use along proposed fine-node networks in the city.
  • The Kenya Railways Corporation (KR) has also introduced last-mile connectivity buses where air-bound passengers commute from Nairobi Railway Station to Embakasi before being shuttled to JKIA at a nominal fare of Sh250.
  • The move which has drastically eaten into taxi operators’ pie is part of KR’s plans to provide its customers with a one-stop shop solution for movement within Nairobi.

Public transport in Nairobi is set to go through a transformation in a State-backed plan aimed at unlocking traffic and easing movement in the capital city. However, the matatu and taxi operators are not happy with the new changes saying they are likely to drive them out of business.

One of the key plans is by the Nairobi Metropolitan Authority (Namata) which plans to procure large capacity vehicles for use along proposed fine-node networks in the city.

The Kenya Railways Corporation (KR) has also introduced last-mile connectivity buses where air-bound passengers commute from Nairobi Railway Station to Embakasi before being shuttled to JKIA at a nominal fare of Sh250.

The move which has drastically eaten into taxi operators’ pie is part of KR’s plans to provide its customers with a one-stop shop solution for movement within Nairobi.

Last week, KR managing director Philip Mainga said they had introduced a commuter Rail Bus Service that will transport its town-bound customers to Westlands, Yaya Centre and Upper Hill areas upon disembarkment from the commuter train every weekday.

“We are confident of providing a reliable service to our customers and we urge them to patronise our services to access their work stations from their homes and vice versa,” he said.

The development has taken a big slice of matatu business with the Madaraka Express offering two night trains for the Mombasa-Nairobi route where each carries 1,260 passengers.

On the Nairobi-Nyeri route there is a new train every Friday charging Sh200 to Nanyuki as opposed to the Sh800 per head fare charged by matatus.

The matatu operators are already raising concerns that their turf is under threat. And their protestations are bound to get louder once the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) system buses that have been procured from South Africa arrive.

Namata has since pushed through approval and gazettement of the five-node BRT bus network that will see commuters enjoy hourly bus services.

Namata’s five routes — Ndovu, Simba, Kifaru, Nyati and Chui — cover Nairobi’s Central Business District (CBD), Kenya’s financial hub of Upperhill and straight into various estates.

Ndovu line starts at 6am from Kangemi running through Westlands (6.15am), town centre (6.30am) onwards to Nairobi West (6.45am), NextGen Mall (7am) and eventually at the end of its first journey at 7.15am.

A similar schedule is planned for a second BRT bus running in the opposite direction from Imara Daima (6am) arriving at Kangemi at 7.15am.

Ndovu line also has a second trip planned for the same route starting at Kangemi and Imara Daima respectively at 7am rthrough the same route until 8.30am.

For the morning trip, Simba line runs from Bomas of Kenya through Blue Sky/T-Mall to Nairobi CBD then passing through Thika Road on its way to Ruiru township.

Chui Line has been reserved for Njiru-Showground route connecting the two nodes through Nairobi CBD while Kifaru line is dedicated to Mama Lucy-Dohnhom-CBD-T-Mall-Bomas-Karen-Kikuyu route with Nyati Line linking Ridgeways (Kiambu road), Balozi (Allsops) to Imara Daima estate.

The Matatu Owners Association (Moa) has opposed introduction of the new routes saying they were not consulted and that such plans risks excluding them from participating in the multi-billion shilling industry, hence hurting jobs and investments.

“Introducing BRT buses is akin to killing private investments by small and medium enterprises. We need to be iven a chance to invest in BRT buses and participate in deciding the routes,” Moa said.

The BRT is to be complemented by the commuter rail network that is to expanded to include Limuru, Ngong, Ruai, Kenol-Murang’a, JKIA, Konza to the newly introduced Athi River and JKIA nodes on top of the existing Kiambu Town, Ruiru and Syokimau.

The five BRT and seven commuter rail corridors have since been gazetted with infrastructure being developed across Nairobi to accommodate BRT buses as well as new trains acquired to help ‘move’ Nairobi.

Housing and Urban Development Principal Secretary Charles Hinga said a Chinese firm, Stecol Corporation had been awarded a Sh5.6 billion contract to start construction of special lanes for Nairobi city centre and Thika highway as well as a hub at Kasarani area.

“The first phase covering the corridor from Clayworks to Haile Selassie and then to Kenyatta National Hospital is on course,” said the PS.

Sh5 billion has also been spent on compulsorily acquiring Nairobi’s Railways Club land that will accommodate a passenger terminal will serve public service vehicles (PSVs) plying Ngong Road and Lang’ata Road including Kawangware, Kikuyu, Kibera, Lang’ata, Rongai and Kiserian as their pick-up and drop-off point.

The two transport hubs will be complemented by bus termini at Desai and Park Road, Workshop Road, Fig Tree and Muthurwa, that are to be used by long distance buses thereby freeing up space within the CBD for smooth flow of traffic.