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Bring Back “NYAYO BUSES’

20 Oct

The Matatu industry has for many years been associated with road accidents, recklessness-corruption and lawlessness. It is an industry that is most citied for lack of management and no procedures. These include no schedules, poor working conditions for workers, fluctuating fares, undesignated stops, cartels, and harassment.
Despite all this, Matatu industry is a major Economy booster; creating direct and indirect employment to thousands of diverse vehicle owners, Matatu Saccos, management companies, drivers, touts, route managers, mechanic; and a source of livelihood and investment opportunity for hundreds of Kenyans working in insurance companies, Tracking Companies and spare parts dealers among others.
Today we have a more improved road network. The demand for transport has increased tremendously with mass movement to urban areas. But the current state of transport system in Kenya is still wanting;
• What is lacking ?
What we are yet to see is the GoK coming in as investors; owning and operating public service transport. It is very possible. The idea was tested During the Nyayo Era- Earlier in late 80’s {1988 to be precise.} President Moi in an effort to create cheaper alternative for the commuting population started a state owned bus service (Nyayo Bus Service Corporation). Under the umbrella of the National Youth Service {currently led by CS for Devolution} the Government of the day imported buses from Italy and Belgium and in under a year they were controlling a fleet of over 300 buses Serving in most of the city routes. This venture went down; not because it wasn’t resourceful, but because of mismanagement and corruption.
What the National government can do to tame the market is bring in state owned buses”. They will Charge lower fares than the competitors and still make lots of profit, because (1) they {NYS} have subsidies in fuel and (2) they can easily import spare parts for the buses in an environment of foreign exchange restrictions. (3) they have availability of manpower; drivers and conductors will be sourced from the institution at no extra expense. And (3) All the buses will operate on NYS logo and this will mean more disciplined/ trained PSV operators. Since it will be run by a government institution we are likely to see an end to corruption on the road.
An estimated 70% or more of the Kenyan work force live in the outskirts of the capital and use public service vehicles to go to work and vice versa. These include colleges and universities students {since most of these learning institutions are located in the cities or have branches in the capital.} Also majority of small scale traders buy their merchandise in the capital and sell in rural areas. Farmers too rely on public transport to get their produce to the market. The only available alternative means of public transport is Motor cycles, salon cars /taxi, and bicycles which takes care of only a small percent leaving most of the passengers to the matatus.

The current transport market is still dominated by 14 seater vans. Although there has not been any new 14 seater licensed for town service in the last 8 years since the Government restricted licensing; Many of those that were licensed in that year going back are still in operation. The average Matatu is 8—9yrs old. {This is not the year of manufacture since most of these vehicles are second hand imported from Dubai and Japan.}
Most of the 33 seater minibuses are newer; but they are mostly on town service routes. We have some routes that have brand new vehicles registered as early as this year. In most urban town centers we have new and locally assembled Matatu joining the industry; there are those that are fitted with spacious seats, powerful music systems, CCTVand wi-fi ; they are locally referred to as “manyanga”.
Passengers pay more for these new buses even when the cheaper ones are available. Newer buses are modern, which means they are more advanced in-terms of comfort, speed and safety.

Recent changes in government institutions that engage with operators in the Matatu sector has brought about renewed hope of finding a lasting solution to the public transport problem that is common in most urban towns in Kenya. By bringing together various government institutions under the National Transport and Safety Authority {NTSA}, the Government intended to make it easier to monitor and regulate public transport in the country.
The fragmentation that existed before, did not allow room for accountability. Thus, creating points of collusion where individuals who are employed by the regulatory agencies {especially police officers} joined the industry and own vehicles, which operate at an advantage. This is what causes tension among operators and increases the level of noncompliance to rules and regulations paving the way for lawlessness and corruption.

 

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Posted by on October 20, 2015 in Its life, Matatu matters

 

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