By Kenfrey Kiberenge
A fortnight ago, I was at the Westminster ( Britain’s Parliament) where I got a rare chance to sit in the press gallery and watch the vaunted Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs).
After half an hour of theatrical exchanges between PM David Cameron and Ed Miliband, The Independent newspaper editor I was working with tagged me to a lobby briefing, which is basically the PM’s spokesman clarifying to political reporters what their boss meant.
That fascinated me. But what baffled me is walking to the tube (underground train) station moments later and alas, here was the PM’s spokesman, like me, swiping his travel card to go home using the train.
For a moment, I was thrown into a spin and two questions crossed my mind: How could the mouthpiece of one of the world’s most powerful leaders travel in public means? Should he not be driving, nay chauffeured, in a speed machine? A Chrysler or a Ferrari may be?
While he could afford such lifestyle, he does not need it. This is because the manner in which Britain’s economy is designed, public amenities are superior to private facilities. Nearly any Briton can, therefore, comfortably use public services without compromising their stature or security, regardless of their income, which brings some sense of equality among all.
Public transport is professionally managed by Transport For London (TFL), a Government body; not left to profiteering kahunas. This removes the possibility of hiking fare prices haphazardly regardless of the traffic, rains or rush hour.
In Kenya, we have seen instances where public vehicles have been barred from accessing most parts of Nairobi. But in London, there are dedicated bus lanes that make commuters travel faster.
A private car driver could be fined up to Sh18,348 (£139) for using the bus lanes, although the buses are at liberty to use any of the lanes!
And unlike in Nairobi where we have plenty of “no buses and matatus beyond this point”, here most signs read “no vehicles, except buses”.
Driving through some parts of London with a private vehicle also attracts a congestion fee of Sh1,320 (£10) daily plus parking fee, although public buses can access all these areas free of charge.
When it comes to the trains, the excellent signage can take you to any part of London even if it is your first day in the city.