Namata to start Thika Road BRT operations in July

BRT Bus Station along Thika Road on November 15, 2021. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

The first phase of the much-awaited mass rapid transport system on Thika Road is set to start in July this year.

The government said it will initially roll out a pilot in which 100 high capacity buses will be deployed on Thika Road between Kasarani and the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH).

Housing and Urban Development Principal Secretary Charles Hinga said Thika Road – referred to as BRT Line Two – will be implemented in two phases that will be preceded by the pilot or inception phase in July.

After the pilot, Nairobi Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (Namata) will implement the first phase that will expand the BRT line to run from Ruiru to KNH, where 300 buses will be used. A second phase will later extend the line to run between Kenol in Murang’a County to Ongata Rongai in Kajiado County.

Inception phase

Infrastructure for the inception phase that was launched this year is 70 per cent complete.

“The first phase is divided into the pilot inception phase that starts at Kasarani to KNH and then the Phase One that will cover Ruiru to KNH, a distance of about 27 kilometres,” he said.

“When fully operational, we will need 660 buses for BRT Line Two. It will start at Kenol and terminate in Rongai,” he said

Namata had earlier this month invited manufacturers to bid for supply of 100 12-metre buses.

Local vehicle assemblers have in the past been up in arms when the government had an initial plan to import BRT buses from South Africa.

Hinga said local firms can bid to supply the vehicles but added that while there are provisions for local content, the government would not compromise on quality.

“Namata has published standards and these have to be met,” Hinga said.

The authority specified that it does not want buses that run on fossil fuels and instead wants those running on biodiesel, hybrid (run on biodiesel and electricity) or full electric buses.

Run on biodiesel 

The PS however noted that the initial batch will run on biodiesel but the government is looking at operating fully electric buses once the power infrastructure is in place.

“Biodiesel is green and there is a programme to do biodiesel in the country but before this is ready, we will be importing. Namata will be championing green technology.” “For us to go fully electric, we need some ancillary infrastructure. When we have hybrid buses, then when we have the infrastructure then we can switch to electric.”

Further, Hinga said there has been progress on other BRT lines.

Among them is Line Three that runs from Dandora through Juja Road to the City Centre. Construction is expected to start end of the year.