Shipping & Logistics

Matatu owners support U-turn on mass bus imports

 Simon Kimutai.
Matatu Owners Association chairman Simon Kimutai. PHOTO | KANYIRI WAHITO 

The Matatu Owners Association (MOA) has supported the government’s plans to assemble bus for the rapid transit vehicles (BRT) venture locally, saying the move will support growth of the local manufacturing industry.

MOA chairman Simon Kimutai said on Tuesday that the decision comes at the right time, adding that importing the vehicles could have crippled the local manufacturing industry which is one of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s pillars for economic growth during his final term in office.

Mr Kenyatta’s Big Four agenda also aims to improve economic growth through spending, improving food security, rolling out universal healthcare and building affordable houses. “The decision to retreat was a good one and I think there must have been some kind of misadvise. You can’t import vehicles without consulting stakeholders,” said Mr Kimutai.

The government last month made a U-turn on plans to import 30 buses from South Africa at a cost of Sh500 million for the bus rapid transit (BRT) venture, saying preference will now be given to local firms. Transport and Infrastructure Secretary James Macharia said the government will now engage local manufacturing firms to provide buses, expected to be deployed on Thika Highway and other major transport corridors within the city.

The first batch of the vehicles was expected to arrive in the country by end of last month.

The government was set to launch six BRT corridors in Nairobi in a move aimed at reducing traffic congestion in the city.

Priority corridors were JKIA–Likoni, James Gichuru – Rironi and Bomas–Ruiru roads.

Other roads that had been identified for the exercise include Ngong Road – Juja, Mama Lucy – T-Mall and Balozi to Imara roads.

The corridors are expected to hold up to 950 high capacity buses reducing travel time and cost by 70 per cent, according to the CS.

MOA’s move comes a few months after Nairobi matatu owners vowed to sabotage the BRT initiative arguing that stakeholders in the transport business had not been consulted.

Chairman of the Association of Matatu Operators in Nairobi CBD Jamal Ibrahim faulted the move saying the new buses were set to charge less fare harming their business in the process.

He urged the government to channel the resources to repairing impassable roads within the city.