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Crisis looms as matatu kept off CBD

By Christopher Owuor
Monday, November 30th, 2020
Matatu congested in the Nairobi CBD. Photo/PD/Gerald Ithana
In summary

Alvin Mwangi and Hillary Mageka 

Kenyans are staring at a nightmare in the transport sector beginning tomorrow if Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) implements its directive to have Public Service Vehicles (PSVs) are barred from accessing the city centre.

NMS Director General Mohammed Badi told Parliament in September all PSVs plying major routes will not access the city centre from December 1.

This came even as confusion emerged as to whether NMS will push on with its planned directive to bar PSVs from accessing the city.

NMS director in charge of Transport Eng Michael Ochieng’ said there were plans to decongest the city by December but they had not set a specific date to bar matatus.

“Things will be done in phases in terms of which termini are ready and which matatus will occupy. For now, treat the issue of date as just rumours,” he said.

Ochieng’ said NMS is working round the clock to see the city decongested, hinting that part of it will be complete by December.

NMS has been working with the National Transport and Safety Authority to decongest the city centre by building several bus stations on the outskirts.

Maj-Gen Badi said NMS had set a terminal in Ngara and another in Parklands where all commuters coming into the central business district (CBD) via Thika Road will alight.

But the move has not been received well after Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja opposed the planned removal of PSVs from the city centre. He accused Badi of engaging in “mechanical interventions” to decongest the city.

Sakaja said even though the NMS has a good vision for Nairobi, it is still blind to the reality that matatus are not a nuisance to Nairobi’s transport system.

“In as much as we support the plans to decongest the city centre, you can only ban matatus when you have provided an alternative for the passengers coming from across the city,” Sakaja, said on the floor of the Senate on Thursday while addressing a looming matatu strike.

“Imagine a sick old person being dropped at Globe Roundabout to walk all the way to Uhuru Highway then to Railways Golf Club to get a matatu to the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH).”

Sakaja asked NMS to put the plans on hold until they provide a proper alternative for the ordinary mwananchi.

“If you drop a mwananchi at Railways Station, how will thy get across town for free?

Let that ban not be put in force,” the senator held, insisting NMS must provide alternatives especially to Persons with Disability. “Let us do it humanely. Let them work with others leaders to come up with a solution.”

Under construction

Badi told the National Assembly Committee on Administration and National Security that Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) has acquired the land for the project so the NMS is now working with the authority to set up the bus stops.

PSVs plying Ngong and Lang’ata roads (Kawangware, Kikuyu, Kibera, Lang’ata, Rongai, Kiserian) will terminate at Green Park, popularly known as Railways Club, whose terminus is almost complete.

The Fig Tree terminus at Ngara will serve matatus from Waiyaki Way, Uhuru Highway, Kipande and Limuru roads.

PSVs from Mombasa Road (South B, South C, Industrial Area, Imara Daima, Athi River, Kitengela, Machakos) will terminate at another new terminus at the junction of Bunyala and Workshop Road, which is still under construction.

The Muthurwa terminus is expected to remain as it serves PSVs from Jogoo and Lusaka roads.

Badi said long distance PSVs from Mt Kenya and those from the Thika Superhighway will stop at the new Desai and Park Road termini, where they will also pick and drop passengers.

Meanwhile, the Nairobi Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (NaMATA) has gazetted 12 mobility corridors, seven of them for core mass rapid transportation linking Limuru, Ngong Town, Kenol, Murang’a, Kiambu, Ruai, JKIA and Konza Technocity.

President Uhuru Kenyatta established NaMATA in February 2017 to cover Nairobi, Kiambu, Kajiado, Machakos and Murang’a counties.

Line 1 is to run from James Gichuru Road/Waiyaki Way to JKIA, a distance of 20km.

Line 2, which is 31km long, will run from Lang’ata Road to Ngong Road as well as Juja Road and Komarock Road to Ruiru.

It will have major stops at Dandora, Kariobangi and near Gikomba Market.

Line 3 will run from Githurai through Thika Road to Moi Avenue in the CBD and terminate at Kenyatta National Hospital. Line 4 will cover 14km from T-Mall to Jogoo Road while Line 5 will cover Outering Road.

A few days ago, President Kenyatta launched the Commuter Rail Service, which is expected to eventually link to the Bus Rapid Transport system for efficiency.

A park-and-ride facility will see commuters heading to the city centre board buses for the final parts of their journeys.

Walkways on the busy motorways will guide placement of initial stations for the BRT network.

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