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Matatu operators back plans to decongest CBD

By Alvin Mwangi
Friday, October 30th, 2020
Matatu congested in the Nairobi CBD. Photo/PD/Gerald Ithana
In summary
    • Matatu Owners Association chair  Simon Kimutai has questioned why the railway, airlines and boda boda operators are operating at full capacity while matatus are restricted to the social distancing rule.

Matatu operators yesterday backed plans by the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) to decongest  the capital city’s central business district (CBD).

Their sentiments come following reports that matatus will be barred from  accessing CBD as from next month when the much-anticipated Nairobi Commuter Rail Service is launched.

With the launch, travellers will be ferried to and from the Nairobi Central Station under the Commuter Rail Project, a collaboration of the Kenya Railway Service and NMS.

The project has been touted as a game-changer in the reduction of both vehicular and human traffic jams in the city.

Commuter rail is part of the master plan of an integrated commuter system within the city and its environs.

It also comprises the Bus Rapid Transit, monorail and underground rail.

Speaking on behalf of his colleagues, Matatu Owners Association chair (MOA) Simon Kimutai, accused NMS of sidelining them on matters touching on the transport sector.

Operators have thus warned against introduction of the guidelines without adequate consultations with stakeholders in the transport industry.

 “ We are not against the decongestion. We are only against discrimination. We are the sector players, as such the government should not take us for granted,” he said.

He continued: “We would not like to be just issued with directives. We would appreciate to be part of the team that comes up with the guidelines.”

 In particular, Kimutai raised concerns over the new terminals that will be put in place, arguing that they cannot accommodate all matatus in Nairobi.

Some of the infrastructures and amenities are still under installation. Operations have started in the Embakasi, Pipeline and Donholm railway.  The three railway stations are among the 10, which the Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) is upgrading and constructing.

The others are at Umoja, Kibera, Thika, Mbagathi Way, Kenyatta and Strathmore universities, Kitengela and Thogoto.

Designated stops

Park and ride services will be available at designated stops. Motorists will park at the stations and board the City Rail System buses to and from the city.

 At the same time, Kimutai said their other concern is how the government has discriminated against the public transport sector with the Covid-19 protocols.

He noted that it is unfair for the government to allow air and railway transports full capacity while giving the matatu sector a mere 60 per cent.

 He said it is high time the government woke up to the reality that the sector plays a vital role hence the need to recognise it.

According to Kimutai, the operators are protesting the requirement on 60 per cent capacity imposed in March by the Ministry of Health to help contain the spread of Covid-19.

“It is sad that even after the President opened the economy he forgot us. We play a vital role and the same way he opened bars, he should also make an order to have us carry our passengers in full,” said Kimutai.

 Kimutai  said PSVs are incurring enormous losses due to social distancing restrictions, which have seen them continue to operate on half capacity.

He also called for enforcement of the cashless payment system as a measure to curb the spread of the virus.

“Telling us to provide soap and water is not enough. We are already making losses.

Where should we get money to provide for the sanitisers. Our businesses have dropped to over 60 per cent and the government will likely not get taxes if the situation is not salvaged,” he said.

His remarks come at a time Covid-19 cases have spiked, with a record 1,000 cases recorded daily since Saturday while deaths are on a constant increase.

Matatus have been flagged as a weak link in the fight against Covid-19.