Commuter fares on key long-distance routes have risen by up to 67 percent as public service vehicles (PSVs) resume operations under the tight social distancing rules meant to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
A spot check showed that passengers travelling to Mombasa from Nairobi are now paying Sh2,000 compared to Sh1,200 previously while those headed to Kisumu from the capital city are parting with up to Sh2,100 against an old rate of Sh1,500.
On the Nairobi-Nakuru route, commuter fares have jumped to Sh700 from Sh400, an increase of 67 percent.
“The fares have increased mainly because we are carrying less passengers. We have no option but to double our prices to help cover operational costs,” said an official of Dreamline Bus Service, who spoke to Business Daily in confidence.
President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday lifted restrictions on movement into and out of the Nairobi Metropolitan Area, and Mombasa and Mandera counties — paving the way for a conditional resumption of PSV operations which had been suspended since March to contain the spread of the virus.
As part of conditions set for resumption of public transport in an out of the three counties, PSVs operators have been compelled to operate under strict health directives, including leaving some seats empty.
The Transport ministry, for instance, demands that a 14-seater PSV carry only 10 passengers, a 33-seater 18 passengers and a 51-seater 30 passengers. This includes the drivers and the crew.
PSV operators are also required to obtain special permits to enter Nairobi, Mombasa and Mandera, which have been marked as Covid-19 hotspots.
Easycoach managing director Azym Dossa said the bus company would raise its commuter fares by between 25-50 percent when it resumes operations later this weekend or early next week.
A 50 percent rise will see Easycoach charge Sh2,100 on the Kisumu-Nairobi route from Sh1,450 before its fleet was grounded in April with the cessation of movement out and in of the capital.
It will charge Sh1,875 on the Nairobi-Eldoret route if it opts for maximum fare rise from the previous Sh1,250.
“We consider this a good gesture by the State. We have actually recalled our drivers in preparation for the resumption of operations either on Sunday or Monday,” said Mr Dossa.
At Mololine services, passengers are paying 1,800 to Kisumu, Sh1,600 to Eldoret and Sh800 to Nakuru. The operator previously charged Sh1,200 to Kisumu, Sh1,000 to Eldoret and Sh500 to Nakuru.
ENA Coach is charging Sh1,500 to ferry passengers to Kisii, Kisumu and Homa Bay as well as Awendo and Rongo, up from Sh1,000, representing a 50 percent increase.
Mash East Africa is charging Sh1,800 to ferry passengers to Mombasa and Malaba, up from Sh1,200 -- an increase of 50 percent. It is charging passengers Sh2,000 to ferry passengers to Malindi from Sh1,400, an increase of 40 percent.
The easing of movement restrictions is set to offer relief to inter-county traders who had been dealt a blow given the economic dominance of Nairobi and Mombasa.
Nairobi accounts for 21.7 percent of the country’s output, and influences economic activities in the neighbouring counties of Kiambu, Machakos and Kajiado and even beyond.
Disruptions due to the Covid-19 pandemic have battered the economy, with the Treasury projecting growth to slow to 2.5 percent this year from 5.4 percent last year.
Although many businesses have resumed, their operating hours remain restricted by a nationwide night curfew in place since March to help curb the spread of the virus.