The night-travel ban for buses has turned into a boon for 7-seater private vehicles now operating illegal commuter services between major towns at exorbitant fares.
A survey within Nairobi’s key matatu termini indicates the vehicles have taken advantage of the ban to charge high fares with touts calling for passengers at the traditional bus termini.
Despite the high cost, passengers hailed the vans saying they provided a crucial service to Nairobi workers stuck upcountry.
The Nairobi-Nakuru route now fetches Sh1,200 up from Sh500 charged by 10-seater shuttles and Sh300 by 14-seater matatus while Kisumu-Nairobi fares have hit Sh2,500 from the usual Sh800 charged by 14-seaters.
Whereas Nairobi-Busia buses usually charge Sh1,000, the vans are asking for Sh2,500. On the Nairobi-Nyeri route, private motorists are demanding Sh1,000 up from the usual Sh300 for the two-hour ride.
Last week, National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) banned passenger bus services after 6pm in a bid to curb runaway deaths blamed on nocturnal travel.
The move affected a large number of Kenyans who prefer to travel at night, which is much cheaper. The situation was worsened by the fact that most people had booked for night travel in advance.
Easy Coach, Dreamliner Express and Modern Coast Express are among bus firms that alerted clients on the rescheduled travel hours to the next day, with most travellers remaining stuck at Nairobi, Kisumu, Kitale, Mombasa and Eldoret bus termini.
According to the NTSA Act, it is illegal for private vehicles to ferry fare-paying passengers as they do not meet the laid down requirements.