How Liwatoni floating bridge is reducing ferry congestion one year on

Ferry users crossing the Likioni channel at the Liwatoni Floating Bridge in Mombasa in April this year.

The Liwatoni footbridge is finally serving its purpose, almost a year after it was officially opened to the public.

For months, many residents had complained that the one-kilometre bridge was too long, while others said it was too costly to use it.

Just days after it opened in January this year, Mombasa island and Likoni residents cited the scorching sun and requested shades.

But residents are now embracing the amenity, after administrators and security officials made it mandatory for pedestrians to use it during peak hours.

The Sh1.9 billion structure was meant to help reduce congestion and ease human and vehicular movement across the Likoni channel.

It has a 150-metre movable section in the middle, so it can be opened and closed as ships move in and out of the Mombasa port.

The Likoni crossing was the only link between Mombasa and Kwale County, and was used by thousands of people every day.

The Liwatoni bridge opens daily for pedestrians at 6am and closes at 8am, after which residents are allowed to use the ferry. In the evening, it opens again between 4pm and 8pm, when a majority of people leave work.

During those evening peak hours, only vehicles, people with disabilities and essential health workers are allowed to use the ferries.

Users now say that the bridge has helped curb stampedes that were frequent when travellers boarded ferries.

"The floating bridge has improved mobility in the Likoni channel. Since I started using it, I haven’t seen any stampedes at the ferry, which were common earlier," said James Kioko, a Likoni resident.

Last row

He uses the bridge daily to cross to Mombasa island. He said the bridge saves him the time he used to waste waiting to board the ferry.

"When I leave my house, I know I am going to walk through to the other side. I don’t have to wait for the ferry for more than 30 minutes," he said.

Mishaps caused by congestion at the ferry have also dropped. For instance, in 2019, a mother and her four-year-old child died when their vehicle plunged into the Indian Ocean.

Videos of the incident showed that the vehicle was in the last row on the ferry when it slid backwards.

Ferry breakdowns have also declined, as they can now be serviced without fears of a shortage of ferries. This is after two large ferries -  the MV Jambo and MV Safari, which can carry more vehicles – were introduced.

Earlier plans seen by the Nation showed that the bridge was to be built near the Mama Ngina Waterfront for easy access. This was later ruled out because of risks raised by experts.

They included possible collision of vessels, presence of seabed cable and strong waves that could swing the bridge.

As a result, officials moved the site to Liwatoni, but that raised construction costs from Sh1.5 billion to Sh1.9 billion.

When President Kenyatta launched the bridge on December 10 last year, he said it would ease the movement of more than 300,000 pedestrians in and out of Mombasa island.

"The bridge is an important infrastructure project that will enable citizens of Mombasa to cross over the Likoni channel without hindrances. It will benefit the economy of the Coast region," he said.