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Boost for Kenya bus firms as Macharia shelves SA imports

Transport secretary James Macharia
Transport secretary James Macharia. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Local bus assembly and body fabricators are set for a major boost after Transport secretary James Macharia reversed a decision to import 30 bus rapid transit (BRT) vehicles from South Africa at a cost of Sh500 million.

Mr Macharia, Wednesday said preference will now be given to Kenyan firms to supply the high capacity buses.

The buses are to be deployed on the already-marked Thika Super Highway and other major roads within the city.

The first batch of the 30 BRT vehicles, which had already been identified in South Africa was expected to arrive in the country next week.

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“We are committed to engaging local manufacturing and assembling capacity in provision of these buses and pushing for policies that encourage private sector-led investments in the automotive and transport sectors.

“We have no intentions or desire to import these buses from South Africa,” he said.

The government is set to launch six Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridors in Nairobi in a move aimed at reducing traffic congestion in the capital.

Priority corridors are JKIA to Likoni, James Gichuru-Rironi and Bomas to Ruiru roads.

Others motorways also identified include Ngong Road – Juja, Mama Lucy–T-Mall and Balozi to Imara roads. At their optimum capacity, the corridors are expected to hold up to 950 high capacity buses reducing travel time and cost by up to 70 per cent, according to the CS.

“As government, we have a duty to support the local manufacturing industry in the county--- so it will be impractical to fly these buses from South Africa yet they can be assembled locally," he said.

The BRT buses plan, however, faces stiff opposition from matatu operators. A few months ago Nairobi matatu owners vowed to frustrate the initiative saying they were not consulted.

The Association of Matatu Operators in the city’s CBD chairman Jamal Ibrahim said they want a level field created, adding that the government cannot expect operators to charge the same or lower fares as the already deployed NYS buses yet they are being levied different charges to operate.

He said the government should use the resources in repairing the nearly impassable roads within the city in areas such as Mwiki, Komarock, Juja instead of investing in “a project set for total failure”.

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