Economy

Turf wars as city matatus launch new routes to satellite towns

matatu (1)

Matatus along Accra Road, Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Nairobi and Kiambu matatu owners have introduced new routes beyond traditional zones to boost their earnings amid over supply of vehicles serving city dwellers.  
  • Operators have applied for new licenses from National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) to expand to new areas, citing increased competition on city estate routes.
  • The move has triggered turf wars with operators in the regions protesting transport regulator's decision to give city vehicles the greenlight to ply their areas.     

Nairobi and Kiambu matatu owners have introduced new routes beyond traditional zones to boost their earnings amid over supply of vehicles serving city dwellers.  

Operators have applied for new licenses from National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) to expand to new areas, citing increased competition on city estate routes.

The move has triggered turf wars with operators in the regions protesting transport regulator's decision to give city vehicles the greenlight to ply their areas.     

“Nairobi is saturated and as matatu operators and business people, we are going where there is money,” Nairobi chairman of Matatu Operators Jamal Ibrahim said. 

Machakos is one of the routes that has witnessed the highest invasion of public service vehicles (PSVs) from other parts of the city.  

Operators on the route Wednesday withdrew their vehicles protesting the invasion, claiming that other PSVs were eating into their market.  

Mr Ibrahim said that the introduction of the new routes is part of a wider plan to increase revenues for vehicle owners and employ more Kenyans. 

“The plan for decongestion of CBD by Nairobi Metropolitan Service and the introduction of rapid transport buses (BRT) will reduce our revenues and introduction of the new routes is among plans to keep us afloat,” said Mr Ibrahim. 

Some matatus will now have daily trips from Thika to Ngong, Limuru to Machakos, Rongai to Machakos and Thika to Machakos. 

Mr Ibrahim asserted that travellers from satellite towns would be able to move directly without breaking their trips to change vehicles. 

The pandemic hit hard the sector due to restrictions on movement and passenger capacity to curb the spread of Covid-19. Rising fuel costs has also reduced owner’s margins. 

Heavy traffic on major city roads following the construction of Nairobi Expressway has also reduced PSVs revenues. 

“The business has been affected by 40 percent drop in revenues mostly due to curfew and fuel costs,” Chairman of Matatu Owners Association Simon Kimutai said.

Mr Kimutai said the encroachment would mean less business for existing licenced vehicles that are still dealing with increased operating costs. 

“Giving out routes where others already operate is not fair unless there is evidence showing there is need for more vehicles to serve increased passengers,” Mr Kimutai added. 

This is not the first time matatu owners have raised issues with influx of matatus licenced to operate in other regions.

In February this year, hundreds of commuters were left stranded in Ngong following a strike by matatus in protest over the entry of public service vehicles belonging to Super Metro Sacco into the Nairobi-Ngong route.