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Travellers feel pinch of hiked fares

By Josphat Thiong’o and Weldon Kipkemoi | Dec 24th 2020 | 3 min read
Passengers stranded at North Rift stage waiting for vehicles to travel to Western for Christmas festivities on December 22, 2020. [Jenipher Wachie, Standard]

When Winnie Kahenya got time off from work on Tuesday, she was elated at the thought of travelling upcountry to be with her extended family.

Bag in hand, shopping and a few essentials packed for the two weeks she would be staying in Njoro, Nakuru County, on Wednesday she headed to Nyamakima bus stage in the city where she was to book a ticket home aboard express Nissan shuttles.

Given the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the economy, she anticipated a hike in fare, but nothing had prepared her for the reality she found on the ground.

Passengers waiting at Machakos country bus to travel from Nairobi to Bondo. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

The fare between Nairobi and Kisumu had shot up from Sh350 to Sh800, not forgetting an extra Sh200 for luggage.

Without an option, Kahenya part with the money and put up with the snaking queues at the ticketing booth just to make it home in time for Christmas celebrations.

Her woes were further compounded by the scorching sun and the risk of contracting the novel corona virus, given the crowding at the bus stage where most travellers were not wearing face masks

“I waited for at least four hours before I could book a ticket, board a shuttle and start my journey home,” said Kahenya.

Kahenya’s experience is shared by many people seeking to travel to their rural homes for the Christmas festivities.

Passengers wait for a bus to travel from Nairobi to Kakamega. They were charged Sh3,000 as bus fare. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

A spot check by The Standard yesterday showed commuters had to contend with hiked fares, which have doubled and in some instances tripled, delays in securing tickets and the incessant traffic jams even on the highways. 

At the Country Bus Station, those travelling to Western Kenya (Kisumu, Ahero, Luanda, Bumala, Busia, etc) had to part with between Sh2,500 and Sh3,000, up from between Sh1,200 and Sh1,500 previously. Those travelling to Machakos are paying between Sh800 and Sh1,000, up from Sh500.

Nairobi residents traveling to rural homes at the Machakos country bus station on December 23, 2020. [Edward Kiplimo,Standard]

“We had to increase fares because we are forced to carry fewer passengers to comply with social distancing guidelines,” said Sospeter Omondi, a bus driver with Climax Shuttle Company.

At the Tea Room bus stage, public service vehicles travelling to Nyeri were charging a flat rate of Sh700; Meru between Sh600 and Sh700; and Mwea /Embu/kKritirii Sh600.

Buses travelling to Mombasa had retained normal fare, but there was an acute shortage of buses, forcing those travelling to the coastal county to use alternative means which proved quite costly.

At the Koja bus station, those travelling to Nyandarua were charged Sh800 up from Sh250. Those going to the city’s outskirts like Limuru, Ruaka, Banana and Gachie had to part with between Sh200 and Sh300, up from between Sh100 and Sh200.

On the flipside, some PSV operators have resorted to ferrying luggage and parcels, which they say is less time-consuming and “more profitable”.

A spot-check revealed that sending parcels cost between Sh200 and Sh500 depending on the destination.

In Mombasa, PSVs doubled fares yesterday following a surge in the number of people seeking tickets to travel to parts of western Kenya for the festivities.

Most buses were charging between Sh4,600 and Sh5,000 from Mombasa to Busia, Migori, Kisii and Kakamega. The charges were Sh2,000 a fortnight ago.

Coast Traffic Police Commandant Peter Maina said yesterday that police had intensified crackdown on unroadworthy vehicles.

“Today (yesterday), we have impounded 49 PSVs at Bonje because they were not roadworthy,” Maina said yesterday.

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