Blanket travel ban may have unintended consequences on economy

Onlookers at the scene of an accident at Migaa area near Salgaa along the Nakuru-Eldoret Highway where a Nairobi bus and a truck collided on December 31, 2017. Over 30 people died on the spot and scores injured. [Photo: Kipsang Joseph/Standard]

Workers hoping to make it back to their jobs are set to suffer inconvenience after the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) banned night travel starting yesterday (Sunday).

Employees, school children and East African commuters will suffer the most as their scheduled travels will have to be cancelled in compliance with the NTSA notice.

Matatu Owners Association has disagreed with the authority over the new directive banning long-distance night travel by public service vehicles.

Association Chairman Simon Kimutai said there ought to have been engagement on the specific time when long-distance public service vehicles need to be banned from the roads.

Most accidents

“I agree that most accidents occur due to fatigue but there needs to be engagement on time when such vehicles need to be stopped from ferrying passengers," he said.

The NTSA has given a strict timeline within which public service can operate; 6am and 7 pm.

Mr Kimutai, however, said the travel time needed to be reviewed and allowed between 5am and 10.30pm.

There is a fear that this move will not only bring inconvenience but will disrupt the economy dependent on transportation, including the mitumba business, parcel and courier and transportation to Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan.

Some bus operators were forced to cancel bookings yesterday when the directive took effect and said they would re-schedule.

Public notice

“Dear esteemed customers, due to the immediate suspension of night travel for long-distance public service vehicles, we appeal to our customers to remain calm as we re-schedule all the bookings that were made in advance,” said Modern Coast Express Ltd, which plies to the Coast region and neighbouring countries such as Uganda.

Night travel bans also tend to spark booming business in unlicensed transportation by owners of private cars who rush in to fill the void.

This is not the first time the Government has made a knee jerk reaction to handle spiralling road carnage that has taken the lives of hundreds especially during the festive season.

In 2013, the then Cabinet Secretary Michael Kamau instituted regulations banning night travel.

However, High Court Judge Justice George Odunga's ruled that a total ban on night transport infringed on Kenyans' rights and freedom of movement.

This forced the Government to change tack and allow only those with special licences to operate at night on condition that they have two NTSA-certified drivers for each vehicle, a fleet management system and maintain a comprehensive passenger manifest.

The Government also banned night transportation of petroleum products between 6.30pm to 6.30am under the Energy (Licensing of Petroleum Road Transportation Business) Regulations, 2013.

Transporters, however, argued this was turned into a conduit for making a quick buck by the police and that it was difficult to adhere to whenever they found themselves in long stretches away from the vicinity of a town. This, too, was relaxed.