Nairobi requires Sh6 billion for rapid bus transit

Passengers on an overloaded Nairobi Commuter Rail Service train from Eastlands as the matatu strike took effect on Monday.
Nairobi will require Sh6 billion for bus rapid transit (BRT) infrastructure, including expanding roads to accommodate a dedicated bus line and bus stops.
There are, however, no immediate plans for the BRT, according to Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia, who said the focus was to push commuters from the road on to trains.

The frequency of the city commuter train service has been increased to try to handle the transport crisis sparked by the ongoing crackdown on passenger vehicles that are not compliant with the ‘Michuki rules’.

Over 10,000 commuters rode on the train to work yesterday morning, five times the average number, as matatu operators withdrew their vehicles from the roads fearing arrest.

The crisis was a boon for the loss-making Kenya Railways Corporation as up to 500 passengers were carried in a single coach, top officials of the firm said.

Limited railway coverage in the city means ferrying commuters in high-capacity buses is the only realistic solution to the chaotic public transport in Nairobi and its environs.

“Operating the BRT is a complex process that will take time in design and a lot of resources, so it would not be immediate,” Mr Macharia said yesterday.

Dedicated lane

It has been seven months since the CS first attempted to dedicate a lane on Thika Road for high-capacity passenger buses and vehicles responding to emergencies such as ambulances. Drivers are allowed on any lane on the highway, meaning the attempt could have been a costly, futile exercise.

Little thought was put into marking the innermost lane in pink to warn ordinary motorists that it was reserved. There was no way to enforce the directive, especially as the intended buses have not been acquired.

Macharia yesterday said the ministry would only build the infrastructure and allow private investors to operate the high-capacity passenger vehicles.

“The Government has no interest in offering commuter services on our roads as that can be done by the private sector,” he explained.

According to the CS, the ministry was evaluating several proposals for executing the BRT project, which have been received from private investors.

Isuzu East Africa is building high-capacity buses that it said it hoped would interest operators.

The selection of the investors to undertake the project would take some time, Macharia said, because the proposals were varied and had cost implications. These include Government guarantees for business offered to the operators who typically would require credit facilities from banks.

Special buses

In Uganda, for instance, President Yoweri Museveni last week approved the acquisition of 980 special buses manufactured by Ashok Leyland to tackle the transport challenge in Kampala.

Several African nations have entered into similar agreements.

But with no specific timelines for executing the BRT in Nairobi, the Government-owned railway seems to be more realistic considering the attempt by the State to push more business its way.

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