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Bus companies in Kenya face the same tragedy

The business of running bus companies in Kenya started in earnest in 1934 when the London based, Overseas Transport Company (OTC) introduced 13 buses to serve 12 routes in Nairobi Town. The company partnered with the Nairobi Municipality and came up with an efficient commuter transport system that served Nairobians until it was brought down by cartels at the beginning of the millennium. By that time, it had changed hands from OTC to Stagecoach then to Kenya Bus Services Ltd. The company died.

Back then, there was a long transport bus service called Overseas Transport Company (OTC) that had a relationship with Kenya Bus Services. Their buses were household names in the entire East African region with a hub in Nairobi. Buses would go to Dar-es-Salaam, Arusha, Kampala, Jinja, Tanga and Morogoro through other small towns. The buses were efficient, clean and responsible.

After the railway services, OTC was favoured for both passenger and parcels service. Did you know the story of OTC buses is like the story of the modern Kenyan state? The company had its headquarters at the famous Racecourse Road stage that is now immortalised as ‘OTC Stage’. OTC collapsed in the late eighties, brought down by unfavourable government policies. Enter Akamba Bus Services. It started in the early seventies as a long-service route company. It then grew into one big company that traversed the entire East African region.

They filled the vacuum that was left by OTC. It is not clear what brought the downfall of this once great bus company. Again, their legacy is felt in the area along Lagos Road in the CBD.   The company collapsed about 10 years ago. Did you know the Coast Bus introduced reclining and adjustable seats? The buses were a favourite in the Nairobi - Mombasa and Nairobi- Kisumu routes.  Both were destinations with extremely hot temperatures. The owners responded by adding air conditioners (AC) to their buses.

They nailed it. Unfortunately, they are limping almost 50 years down the road. Did you know that transport business abhors a vacuum? When KBS, OTC and Akamba died, Easy Coach Bus Service quickly filled in the vacuum. The company was doing very well, again moving passengers all the way to Kampala and all major towns in Kenya.

Then Covid-19 happened and since March 2020, the buses have been parked in their yard gathering dust and waiting for Mother Nature to restore normalcy. With modest rates, Easy Coach has dominated the courier services in Kenya. Sadly, Eldoret Express buses are also parked somewhere in a yard gathering dust? They were once kings of Western Kenya routes after the collapse of Mawingo Bus Services.

The blue and gold vehicles were a common sight at the Machakos ‘airport’ stage where they took advantage of their perceived comfort to take up most travellers. Down went another transport legacy.

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