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Economy

NTSA denies 14-seater matatus 2019 licences

Francis  Meja, NTSA director-general.
Francis Meja, NTSA director-general. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) has stopped the licensing of 14-seater matatus, throwing into confusion thousands of investors who operate on various routes across the country.

Only 24 out of nearly 200 14-seater matatu saccos that last month obtained temporary court orders stopping the regulator from denying them licences are having their operating permits renewed.

There are more than 37,000 14-seater matatus on Kenyan roads, as per the Economic Survey data.

The Association of Matatu Operators that represents 195 saccos has moved to court accusing NTSA of declining to license their members on grounds that they are not part of the suit and therefore cannot enjoy the High Court order.

Legal Notice 179 of December 31, 2014 that stopped licensing of 14-seater matatus came into effect on January 1.

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Some 24 Nairobi matatu saccos on December 19 moved to court and obtained orders temporarily suspending the ban until February 15, 2019.

NTSA has declined to extend protection of the order to other saccos.

“The 1st respondent (NTSA) has discriminated against members of the applicant association in processing of road service licences and barred them from renewing road service PSV licence, alleging they were not party to petition 440 of 2018,” says the association in its petition.

They have listed NTSA and the attorney-general as the respondents.

'Discriminatory and unreasonable'

The association claims that the court decision is binding to all across the sector regardless of whether someone is a party to it or not, terming NTSA’s interpretation of the order as discriminatory and unreasonable.

The High Court has asked the association to serve NTSA and return to court for further directions on January 11.

The Legal Notice ordered a stop in the licensing of PSVs that carry fewer than 25 passengers from January 1, 2016, but it was not implemented at the time.

Transport secretary James Macharia last month said reliance on matatus was not sustainable and linked it to the congestion and disorder common in major urban areas, including Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu.

But despite the temporary reprieve for 14-seater matatus, Justice Chacha Mwita will issue a comprehensive ruling on February 15, 2019, the day the temporary order will lapse unless the court extends it.

Last week, Mr Macharia said that 64 units of high-capacity buses will arrive from South Africa later this month.

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

The government plans to launch five Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) corridors in Nairobi to ease traffic congestion in the capital.

Priority corridors include Limuru-Kangemi-CBD-Imara Daima–Athi River to Kitengela Road.

Other motorways identified are Rongai, Bomas-CBD-Ruiru-Thika- Kenol-Murang’a road and Tala-Njiru-Dandora–CBD-Ngong Road.

Optimum capacity

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 percent, according to Mr Macharia.

The Sh9.6 billion BRT plan last November got a major boost after the European Union committed Sh5 billion to it.

On December 3, Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko banned all matatus from entering Nairobi city centre in a bid to decongest the central business district.

The move, however, worsened the traffic on all routes entering the city, forcing the governor to lift the ban a day later.

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