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Travellers hit as PSV operators increase fares

NAIROBI
By Standard Team | March 24th 2020

Passengers in a Sori-bound minibus belonging to Homa Bay Matatu Owners' Sacco that was intercepted by the police at Buoye for violating a government directive on reduced carrying capacity. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Passengers bore the brunt of measures to contain the spread of coronavirus as public transport operators hiked fares.

A spot check in Kisumu revealed the operators, in trying to comply with the Government order on 60 per cent carrying capacity, yesterday increased fares to cushion themselves against losses.

The operators who spoke to The Standard expressed concern that the tough measures had begun affecting the cost of operation and all they could do was to pass the additional costs to travellers.

Elizabeth Atieno had to pay Sh350 from Bondo to Kisumu, up from the normal Sh250.

“We were glad that the vehicle complied with the 60 per cent capacity as we were only eight people out of the recommended capacity of 14, but it came with costs,” she said.

James Bwire, another passenger who was heading to Nakuru from Kisumu, said he was charged Sh800 instead of Sh500.

Many other passengers were stranded as they could not raise the high fares.

David Haggai, Kisumu branch manager of Ena Coach, said they had increased fares by 40 per cent to cushion the company from losses.

According to Mr Haggai, the company has been charging Sh1,000 per passenger from Kisumu to Nairobi, but from yesterday, commuters were to part with an additional Sh400.

“Our buses have a capacity of 47, meaning we would expect Sh47,000 per trip. But when we comply with the 60 per cent order, we would have about 30 people, such that if we charge Sh1,000, the loss would be bigger,” said Haggai.

He noted that with the increased expenses on hand sanitisers and provision of water for washing hands and increased surveillance, the operation costs have gone up.

His sentiments were echoed by Timothy Odongo, another operator, who said the increased fares are aimed at keeping their businesses afloat.

Nyanza Regional Traffic Enforcement Officer Gladys Ogonda said her officers had intensified operations to ensure all vehicles complied with the 60 per cent carrying capacity.

"We have our people on the ground and we have managed to nab a matatu which did not comply," she said.

In Migori, Matatu Owners Association (MOA) chairman George Rarieda said the sector was at a crossroads after the new directive and had no option but to review fares.

MOA chairman Simon Kimutai yesterday defended the hiked fares, saying it was occasioned by cutback on the number of passengers transported.

“As long as the eight-passenger directive is in play, then we will continue charging the hiked fares. The moment the country resumes normalcy, then the fares will reduce,” said Mr Kimutai.

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe last week announced new measures to tame the spread of Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Kagwe ordered 14-seater matatus to carry a maximum of eight passengers while 25-seater buses will carry 15 passengers. Vehicles that carry more than 30 passengers should cut to 60 per cent.

In Nairobi, passengers travelling from Kawangware to the Central Business District had to part with Sh200, up from Sh60. Those from Utawala were paying Sh200 to the CBD and Sh150 from the CBD back to Utawala.

Commuters from Limuru were charged Sh150 instead of Sh80 or Sh100 to access the CBD and between Sh200 to Sh250 from the city back.

Those from Ruaka had to part with Sh150 up from Sh50.

Commuters from Gigiri and Village Market were charged Sh80 up from Sh40, while those coming from Eastleigh had to pay Sh100 up from Sh30 or Sh50.

Moses Rono, a resident, expressed his displeasure at the move, calling PSV operators opportunistic and inconsiderate.

“It's not a time to make abnormal profits. It's a time to stand as Kenyans to fight this. Kudos to Double M matatus, they didn't hike fares and they followed the Government's directive,” he said.

Public Service Vehicles across Mt Kenya region also hiked fares. Commuters along Nanyuki-Karatina route paid Sh300 up from Sh200.

Murang’a to Sagana fares shot up from Sh50 to Sh100 while Kahuro to Nairobi matatus charged Sh400 from Sh300.

PSV operators on the Murang’a-Nairobi route charged Sh300 up from Sh200, while those on Nanyuki-Nairobi route charged Sh800 from Sh500.

During the early morning operations, the PSV operators overloaded passengers as the traffic police failed to conduct inspections as ordered by Inspector General Hillary Mutyambai.

And business at the three bus stations in Embu County were slow yesterday with fewer passengers travelling.

Fare to all locations were increased by between Sh10 and Sh200.

Matatu operators on Embu town-Hospital route were charging Sh40 up from Sh30, while the Embu-Nairobi matatus charged Sh550, up from Sh350.

[Kevine Omollo, Caleb Kingwara, Edwin Nyarangi, Josphat Thiong'o, Brian Otieno, Joseph Muchiri, Boniface Gikandi, Velma Odwori and Fridah King'ori]

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