Commuters on the Lamu-Mombasa road have started enjoying reduced fares due to the increased number of passenger service vehicles (PSVs) plying the route.
Few buses have over the years been plying the route due to incidents of insecurity caused by Al-Shabaab militants and the poor road network that has plagued Lamu since independence.
Those that continued operating there include Tawakal, Tahmeed, T.S.S, Simba Coach and Mombasa Raha Bus companies.
Shortage of PSVs on the route led the few remaining operators to increase their fares to between Sh1,000 and Sh1,200, as 14-seater shuttles charged as high as Sh1,500 for passengers travelling from Lamu to Malindi, or from Kilifi to Mombasa.
However, improved security and the newly constructed Lamu-Witu-Garsen-Mombasa route have prompted more bus companies and more 14-seater shuttles to start operating on the Lamu route.
This month alone, bus companies such as Modern Coast, Buscar and Dreamline introduced passenger services on the route.
The move is a relief for travellers as the increased number of PSVs has made it easier and more convenient to travel, besides reducing the travel costs.
A spot check by the Nation this week established that some bus and 14-seater shuttle service firms had special travel offers to gain an edge over their competitors.
Mombasa Raha is currently charging only Sh800 for passengers travelling from Lamu to Mombasa.
“PSVs on the Lamu-Mombasa route have increased and that’s why we’ve opted to give special offers to our passengers. They can travel with us for as low as Sh800,” said Ahmed Abdallah, a ticket agent.
The shuttle service operators are also extending offers to win over passengers.
Ms Kibibi Athman said she travelled this week in a 14-seater van and paid only Sh1,000.
“We’re happy. The cost of travelling from Lamu to Mombasa continues to fluctuate. Those of us who prefer shuttles used to pay not less than Sh1,500 for travelling from Lamu to Mombasa. Currently, with only Sh1,000, you can travel using the same shuttle,” said Ms Athman.
Speaking to the Nation in his office on Tuesday, Lamu County Chief Transport Officer Abdul Shakir thanked the national government for restoring peace and stability in Lamu.
Mr Shakir also praised the government for the construction of the Lamu-Witu-Garsen road.
“We should expect more bus travel companies to offer services in Lamu. This is due to the improved security as well as the construction and general improvement of the Lamu-Witu-Grasen route. We thank the national government for all that,” said Mr Shakir.
The County Chief Transport Officer, however, appealed to the national government to consider lifting the night travel ban for PSVs on the Lamu-Mombasa route.
“The ban was imposed in 2014 at the peak of Al-Shabaab attacks. Currently, Lamu is safe and we hope the government will consider lifting that ban. It’s long overdue,” said Mr Shakir.
Mr Ali Salim, a businessman in Lamu, said they are expecting more positive changes in terms of business, especially with the upcoming new Lamu Port project, which is part of the national government’s Lamu Port South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) programme.
“The Lamu Port, once it commences operations, will turn this region into an economic and industrial hub, giving the locals a new lease of life,” said Mr Salim.