Upcountry fares double after night travel ban

A student ponders his next move after failing to secure a ticket at a Mombasa bus booking office. PHOTO | wachira mwangi | NMG
A student ponders his next move after failing to secure a ticket at a Mombasa bus booking office. PHOTO | wachira mwangi | NMG 

Fares from upcountry more than doubled following the ban on long distance night travel for public service vehicles (PSVs), adding to the pain of commuters grappling with January expenses like schooling costs.

Travellers from Kisumu, who normally pay Sh1,000 to Nairobi, Wednesday parted with between Sh2,000 and Sh3,000, while their counterparts from Meru paid Sh2,000 instead of the usual Sh600 to Nairobi.

The situation was no different for those coming from Eldoret as they parted with Sh2,000 while those travelling from Busia to the capital city paid between Sh2,500 and Sh3,000 for a Sh1,000 trip.

PSV owners have linked the fare increase to the Sunday ban by the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) following the bus crash at Migaa that claimed the lives of 36 people on New Year eve.

Hundreds of passengers, including school children, are still stranded in various bus stages in major towns for the third day in a row. The ban started Sunday.

“I must admit though that the situation is a bit confusing as there are those travellers who do not know about the ban and only learn of it at the station,” a supervisor at Easy Coach said.

NTSA on Sunday banned long distance night travel of PSVs following an accident at Migaa, along the Eldoret-Nakuru highway that claimed 36 lives.

NTSA ordered all PSV operators to reschedule their trips between 6am and 7pm, in what has caused confusion at booking offices with travellers thronging the premises, fearing delays.

Operators have resorted to fare increased as a survival tactic, to the disadvantage of huge crowds of stranded witnessed at various bus termini.

If the sky-high fares persist, they will put pressure on inflation, which fell to 4.50 per cent in December, from 4.73 per cent a month earlier, due to a reduction in some food prices.

Transport cost has the third biggest effect on the cost of living measure because it has a 8.66 per cent weight in the basket of goods and services used to calculate inflation, behind food and rent together with utilities.

 “The Transport Index recorded an increase of 2.44 per cent in December compared to November 2017, on account of increase in pump prices of both petrol and diesel as well as higher bus fares associated with Christmas festivals,” said the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS).

The KNBS data shows, country bus fares for 350 kilometre-journeys (equivalent of distance between Nairobi and Kisumu) averaged Sh1,059.56 in December compared to the Sh984.41 at a similar period a year ago and Sh995.47 in November,

While acknowledging that there is a problem on the roads that needs to be addressed, the Matatu Owners Association (MOA) criticised the manner in which the ban was effected, arguing that stakeholders were not consulted before the decision was made.

MOA chairman Simon Kimutai said NTSA should call all stakeholders to agree on the way forward as a team rather than as a single entity.