Isuzu East Africa and bus operators have sought regulatory approval for a redesigned 23-passenger mini bus to accommodate more travellers after being forced to keep seats empty in the wake of corona.
The auto dealer is in talks with the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) and standards agency—Kenya Bureau of Standards—to approve a redesigned 33-seater matatus to 23 passenger van.
This will allow bus operators to carry more passengers amid the Covid-19 rules, which allow 16 passengers in line with the directive of keeping some seats empty under the social distancing rules imposed to curb the spread of the virus.
The redesigned mini bus will have three seat rows instead of the current front rows in the push to make the public transport business profitable.
Most matatus have not increased fares to match the drop in the passenger numbers, cutting returns in a sector that grosses more than Sh420 billion annually.
“To help investors break even in the matatu business, we need to cushion them against losses that occur when they operate below capacity. We have engaged the matatu operators and investors in coming up with an acceptable design that conforms to the Health ministry guidelines,” Isuzu sales and marketing director Wanjohi Kangangi said.
Speaking when he received 25 buses from the vehicle assembler in Nairobi, Super Metro Sacco chairman Nelson Nduki said they were currently incurring a Sh1,000 loss per trip making the business unprofitable.
“As investors in the transport industry, we request to be allowed to redesign our buses to conform to the Covid-19 health guidelines as reduction of passengers has not been commensurate with a rise in fares to accommodate the reduced incomes,” said Mr Nduki.