Matatu operators in Nairobi have faulted the ongoing plans by the government to relocate matatus from the city centre, saying the plan was hurried and risks failing.
The operators said the mess during the test run conducted at the Green Park terminus on Tuesday signalled what awaits the initiative.
Matatu Owners Association (MOA) chairman Simon Kimutai said the shambolic test run demonstrated that the decongestion plan has not been well-thought-out and faces failures as others that have been done before.
Mr Kimutai said that genuine stakeholders in the transport industry with an understanding of traffic flow in Nairobi need to be brought on board and not “cartels” pretending to be stakeholders.
“From the word go, I have predicted failure. When you decide to do something you are not familiar with and you leave out stakeholders and only embrace cartels who just want to cash in the plan…” said Mr Kimutai.
“Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) decided to go the military way where there are no consultations. We were ignored and I am sure we would have given out solutions,” he added.
The MOA boss said that more than 20,000 matatus are terminating their journey in Nairobi CBD and having only seven termini terminating their trips there with no holding grounds for the matatus as they wait for commuters was the “joke of the century”.
“All vehicles terminate their journey in the city centre and they will need a holding ground as they wait for commuters. They should go back to the drawing board, involve stakeholders and technocrats because transport success is about reliability and proper planning,” he warned.
Matatu Welfare Association (MWA) chairperson Dickson Mbugua echoed Mr Kimutai’s sentiments saying that, for instance, there are more than 3,000 vehicles intended to operate at the Green Park yet the terminal can only hold 200 matatus at a time.
He further pointed out that there are not enough dropping and picking up points for the vehicles as well as safety issues for the commuters once they are dropped off.
City centre and beyond
“There is no clear connectivity from the terminal to the city centre and beyond. How do they get to their places of work or business? We cannot rely on boda boda forever. I don’t know if they will dig an underpass or construct an overpass to address this,” said Mr Mbugua.
Mr Kimutai further pointed accusing fingers at the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) for licensing new PSVs to different routes in the city without carrying out a need analysis to ascertain whether there is need for more matatus in the routes, resulting in the current mayhem.
“NTSA has no data of how many vehicles are needed in a particular route. They just keep on licensing everyone who thinks matatu industry has money,” he claimed.
Mr Kimutai said the way forward was to invest in holding grounds and other operating models such as introducing cross-city services to ease the congestion by having the matatus spread out.
“Why don’t you license me to take people from Ngong, drop them in town then proceed with my journey? Somebody in Ngong who wants to go to Buruburu will board the bus and it will keep moving. But when we all have to drop our passengers in the city centre, we will wait for the ones to carry back,” said the MOA boss.