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High hopes as Uhuru launches Mtongwe ferry in Mombasa

By Patrick Beja | Updated Tue, March 14th 2017 at 08:06 GMT +3
President Uhuru cuts a tape to launch the Mtongwe ferry service at Mtongwe Channel. (Photo: Gideon Maundu/Standard)

Residents of Mtongwe in Mombasa got a new lease of life on Monday when President Uhuru Kenyatta launched ferry services.

The ferry service across the Mtongwe Channel was suspended in 2011 due to the collapse of the jetty and landing site and the two small old ferries that were in service were withdrawn.

The Mtongwe ferry is remembered for the 1994 disaster in which 270 passengers died when the vessel sank.

The resumption of the ferry service is expected to boost businesses and attract hundreds of tenants who moved out of Mtongwe due to lack of a direct link to Mombasa Island.

VIBRANT LIFE

Mv Likoni began ferrying commuters across the channel after President Kenyatta officially commissioned it at the south mainland jetty, promising the return of a vibrant life in the area.

The President said the vessel would ferry more than 30,000 passengers every day and would ease transportation for residents.

It will operate at peak hours from 4am to 10am in the morning and 4pm to 10pm in the evening.

The ferry is expected to address a transport crisis in Mtongwe and ease the growing traffic congestion at the Likoni Channel that currently serves 300,000 passengers and 6,000 vehicles daily.

A jubilant Mary Onyango said she and other commuters have been travelling to Likoni ferry to connect to Mombasa after the suspension of the services and that many tenants had moved elsewhere to avoid the transport crisis.

"We hope our businesses will flourish with the resumption of the Mtongwe service. However, the government should maintain the service because it has not been reliable since the 1994 Mtongwe ferry tragedy," said Ms Onyango, a kiosk operator.

The head of State noted that lack of ferry services had ruined the lives of residents and hindered development.

"We have decided to reinstate Mtongwe ferry services following an outcry by residents who had to use the long route through the Likoni ferry. We will soon introduce a vehicle crossing service here," the President Kenyatta said.

He announced that the government planned to build a fixed bridge across the Likoni Channel as a lasting solution to traffic congestion.

President Kenyatta also said the government would fast-track the Dongo Kundu bypass project that connects Mombasa county and the south Coast.

He had a test ride from the Mtongwe jetty to the island before travelling to Kilifi and Kwale counties to inspect road projects.

President Kenyatta, who was accompanied by his deputy, William Ruto, said another ferry would be deployed to the Mtongwe Channel after two new ferries bought at a cost of Sh2.2 billion are delivered in June this year.

Also present were Kwale Governor Salim Mvurya, his Bungoma counterpart, Ken Lusaka, Nairobi Senator Mike Sonko, and Likoni MP Masoud Mwahima.

Mr Mwahima claimed credit for the resumption of the ferry service, claiming that it was part of the goodies to Likoni people after he joined Jubilee.

"People of Mtongwe have suffered for many years. I lobbied the government for the service to resume," he said.

Kenya Ferry Service managing director Bakari Gowa said the schedule of the ferry operation would be extended once the number of passengers increases.

"For now, we will operate one ferry at peak hours between 4am and 10am in the morning and 4pm and 10 pm. Once the population increases, we will extend the time of operation and deploy another ferry," he explained.

He said both the mainland and the island jetties were repaired at a cost of Sh325 million.



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