Hundreds stuck in scramble to beat deadline
There was a mad scramble for public service vehicles as thousands of commuters rushed to beat the government imposed deadline to move in and out of the five-zoned counties which lapsed last night.
Frustrated commuters were forced as much as three times the normal charges as matatu and bus operators took advantage of the rush to hike fares.
In Nairobi, hundreds of travellers from were also paying double or three times high, in bid to move out of Nairobi to beat the lockdown timelines.
Those heading to Mombasa were paying as much as Sh4,000 to Sh5,000 from Nairobi.
It was double pain for travellers who had paid in advance since they were being forced to top-up up to Sh2,000 in bid to travel to Mombasa.
James Luganje could not hide his frustration after Tahmeed Bus Company demanded that he tops up his advance ticket so as to proceed with his journey.
“I had paid in advance Sh1,800 but unfortunately, I am being forced to pay an extra Sh2,200. It is unfair,” he lamented.
At Machakos Country Bus station in Nairobi, chaos, confusion and mad rush to secure bus tickets to various destinations was evident.
Travellers heading to Nyamira were paying between Sh3,000 to Sh3,500 and so was the case for headed to Bungoma.
North Rift passengers especially those who were travelling to Eldoret also parted with Sh2,500 while those destined to Kisii were parting with between Sh2,000 to Sh2,500. At Transline Priority Class, James Makori was stranded due to lack of fare.
“Normally we pay at maximum Sh1000 but at the moment, the charges are too high. With my family, I need to part with up to Sh8,000,” said Makori.
According to John Wambua, a driver with Transline, the rush to move out of Nairobi has forced them to cash in because after the deadline, they will close shop. “The demand is too high and passengers are willing to pay,” he said.
In Nakuru, a spot-check around long distance routes showed quite a number of PSVs also hiked their fares and only a handful of them maintained normal fares.
Passengers flocked the matatu terminus as early as 5am with majority of them being University students traveling from Uasin Gishu, Kisumu and Kakamega counties connecting to Nairobi.
James Kuria from Moi University travelling to Nairobi said they were charged between Sh1,000 to Sh1,500 but had no other option but to board the vehicle.
Kuria said that the government ought to have given them at least a grace period of three days so as to prepare adequately saying a number of students will be stuck in schools.
“In person learning has been suspended temporarily by the government and that means I will only be stranded at the university with nothing to do so I had to travel,” said Kuria.
On Saturday, commuters were forced to pay up to three times more, after PSVs hiked from the usual Sh600 from Nakuru to Nakuru to between Sh2,000 and Sh3,000.
Travellers urged PSVs to be reasonable and bear the burden like everybody else, saying their appetite for profits could be counterproductive.
“We just need sanity in the transport sector, the economy is hurting everyone and you cannot just wake up and take advantage of someone else’s situation for profit,” said a commuter travelling to Kisumu.
Rift Valley Regional Coordinator, George Natembeya was forced to step in and warn all operators to maintain normal fares failure to which security officers will be forced to regulate them as part of extreme Covid-19 measures.
“Matatu operators hiking fares risk being arrested. Let operators be reasonable and assist Kenyans travelling to other counties before enforcement of the restrictions is activated,” said Natembeya.
Naivasha sub-county commissioner Mutua Kisilu said they are keenly monitoring the situation along the highway, adding that security officers had been dispatched to control the traffic and clear the snarl-ups caused by the increased flow of traffic.
“We have seen an increase in the number of motorists along the highway but we have not reported any serious accidents,” he said.
In Machakos, travellers were paying Sh400 more from Tala to Nairobi while those travelling to Machakos were charged Sh350 more up from Sh300.
The 14-seater vehicles that ply Kangundo-Mwala and Mwala to Kithiani route were still carrying full capacity.
The same scenario was seen in Masinga town, with those travelling to Matuu town being charged Sh250 instead of Sh100.
Walking long distance
Some travellers had to walk long distances and sought alternative means of transport due to fare rise.
In Kisumu town, hundreds of travelers as the rush to beat the 8 pm travel deadline to and out of the locked down five counties went on.
A spot check by People Daily at the Kisumu Bus terminus revealed that many travelers were stranded due to bus fare that came as result of increased charges.
Several PSVs had taken advantage of the situation to hike fares, which nearly doubled the previous rates.
Consequently, a number of passengers found themselves stranded as they could not afford the revised charges to their destinations.
Michael Juma, a booking officer at Prestige Shuttle offices in Kisumu told People Daily that they were overwhelmed by the multitude of passengers that showed up in the last two days. Juma attributed the rise in fares to mass increase of customers, noting that due to of high number of travelers who sought to reach their destinations they were forced to carry full capacity without observing social distancing. Another conductor John Ojuok plying the Kisumu-Nakuru route said that they were charging Sh2,000 from Sh600.
Stranded after funeral
Michael Okelo, a passenger who had travelled with eight members of his family to Siaya for a funeral and was en route to Nairobi said they were stranded at the bus terminus since 7am as they were told a bus was on the way coming to pick them but unfortunately up to 1pm it had not arrived.
“I work as a businessman in Nairobi and if the bus will not arrive, then I will be doomed,” he said.
Ivyne Nekesa, a third year student at Maseno University was also among the stranded travelers.
Nekasa told People Daily that the bus fare was doubled but she only had Sh1,650 as bus fare which she paid last time when she was going to school.
She could not afford the fare to Nairobi from Kisumu which hiked to Sh3,500, an amount of money that she did not have at that particular time forcing her to borrow from a friend. Stories by Bernard Gitau, Roy Lumbe, Kirera Mwiti, Gastone Valusi, Viola Kosome and Noven Owiti