Hundreds of matatus operating across eight counties along the Nairobi-Mombasa highway are bracing for tough times as Kenya Railways starts inter-county operations from Monday.
Transport secretary James Macharia said the inter-county hi-speed train leaving Nairobi at 8am would make stopovers in Athi River, Emali, Kibwezi, Mtito Andei, Voi, Miasenyi and Emali before arriving in Mombasa five-and-a-half hours later.
“It is true that plans are complete to start passenger operations to enhance movement of people and goods spurring economies of the eight counties were the Chinese-built standard gauge railway (SGR) traverses,” he said.
Public transport vehicles (PSVs) along the Sh327 billion SGR line have been making a 50 per cent loss since the launch of the Madaraka Express train. Some firms have been forced to reduce the number of their fleets along the route.
Matatus plying Mombasa-Voi route have been charging Sh300 compared to the SGR train’s Sh210. Between Mariakani and Mombasa, PSVs had been charging Sh100 while the new SGR train charges Sh50.
From Nairobi to Voi, matatu passengers pay Sh700 as opposed to Sh510 on the train. “The launch inter-country train service will deny bus owners about 80 per cent of our revenues,” said bus company Modern Coast communications manager Jervis Sundays.
Matatu Owners Association chairman Simon Kimutai, however, sees a win-win for all with matatus getting a new role to play. “Ours is a door-to-door service that will ferry people to the railway station and others home or to work,” he said.
Mr Kimutai said it was also a good development in easing congestion in Nairobi because as a mass transit facility, matatus would be able to carry people home or to work with ease thereby helping them earn more money.
“What we urgently need are bus stations next to the railway stations in the eight counties,” he said.
Additional reporting by Bonface Otieno.