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Passengers spend two days on road as night travel ban kicks in

By Nathan Ochunge and Mactilda Mbenywe | Published Fri, January 5th 2018 at 00:00, Updated January 4th 2018 at 19:39 GMT +3
A young girl travelling to Mombasa from Kisii town takes a nap on their luggage outside Mash Poa offices. Most passengers were affected by the night travel ban imposed by NTSA [Sammy Omingo| Standard]

Travellers have recounted harrowing experiences following the night travel ban imposed on public service vehicles.

Several passengers narrated how they spent at least three days travelling from Nairobi to Kakamega following the ban imposed by the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA).

A journey of over 400km that would ordinarily take about seven hours took Rosemary Akinyi and her two children over 30 hours.

Ms Akinyi stood at the Kakamega bus terminus looking shabby and exhausted.

The mother of two was in a hurry because she wanted to rush her four-year-old son to Kakamega County General hospital.

"He fell sick a day ago aboard the bus but I have been giving him paracetamol until we arrived this afternoon. His health has deteriorated and I want to take him to hospital," she told The Standard.

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Akinyi said she and her children aged two and four years had not had a bath. She was also running out of cash as the little money she had was spent on food along the way. As she excuses herself to attend to her sick child, The Standard team meets Kevin Otieno, who was on the same bus as Akinyi.

Mr Otieno said they booked the bus in Nairobi at around 4pm on Tuesday, marking the start of their odyssey.

“We left Nairobi city at 5pm but on reaching Limuru at around 7.30pm, the driver told us we could not continue with the journey until the following morning," he said.

They spent the night in the vehicle and set off again on Wednesday morning.

“We thought the driver was unfair to force us to spend a night in Limuru, a very cold place."

Otieno said they had to look for supper at a nearby restaurant and brave the cold night in the bus.

A tyre burst further delayed their journey after they arrived in Kericho town.

This meant spending another night on the road since the bus driver had to call for assistance from Nakuru to have the tyre replaced.

Besides, the bus was slow partly because it was old, according to Otieno.

“We had to spend the night on the road again and left Kericho on Thursday (yesterday) at around 6am."

On arrival in town at about 12 noon, Otieno called his brother, a boda boda rider, to take him home.

"It has been a rough ride from the city. We have been to hell and back," he said.

He said the night travel ban should be revoked since it only punished travellers.

Bus crew members in Kisumu narrated how they had at times been forced to hire rooms in hotels for sick and elderly passengers after they are caught by nightfall before reaching their destinations.

According to the new rules, public service vehicles can only operate between 6am and 7pm.

When nightfall reaches catches up with buses, they must park wherever they are until day break, before continuing with the journey.

Tyson Ochieng, a manager at the Coast Bus booking office in Kisumu, yesterday said travelling had become hectic, with passengers having frequent confrontations with the travel crew along the journey.

“We are having a hard time with passengers who do not understand that the ban is beyond our control and we have to adhere to the rule,” said Mr Ochieng.

He said the main bone of contention was hiked fares from Kisumu to Mombasa.

Ochieng said the cost of travel had skyrocketed as travellers had to find a place to stay overnight or sleep in the bus.

“Darkness caught us last night at Salgaa, while on our way to Nairobi and we had to move our passengers to spend the cold night in Nakuru town,” said Ochieng.

Fredrick Ojalo, manager of Nyawero Collection, said Wednesday night was difficult as they had to struggle with sick passengers who could not withstand the cold in Naivasha.

“We were caught up 20km away from Naivasha town. We had to park the bus by the roadside and wait for highway police to escort us into town as required by the new rules," said Mr Ojalo.

He said with the many police roadblocks, the crew had no choice but to park and wait for the highway escort, which came to their rescue four hours later.

“We cannot guarantee the security of our passengers given that we are forced to stop even in the middle of the forest,” said Ojalo.

He said although the ban was meant to reduce road accidents, travel crew and passengers were encountering numerous challenges.

However, some bus companies are trying to work around the new schedules.

Easy Coach Ltd administrator in Kisumu, David Makori, told The Standard that the company was strict on departure time to beat the night travel ban timelines.

“The earliest bus departs at 6am. We are making one trip per day instead of two trips to comply with NTSA demands,” said Mr Makori.

He said the company was giving priority to students and pupils going back to school.

“We are giving 60 per cent priority to students due to limited time than people are reporting back to work,” said Makori.

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