Long queues, PSVs raise fares as schools re-open

Tuesday, January 5th, 2021 00:00 |
Passengers stranded at Kisii Bus Park after matatu operators hiked fares as schools reopened yesterday. Majority of passengers who were taking their children to school scrambled for the few available vehicles. Photo/ROBERT OCHORO

Alvin Mwangi and Robert Ochoro

Thousands of parents were yesterday forced to contend with long queues and hiked bus fares as learners reported back to school after a nine-month closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In Nairobi, the schoolers flocked various bus termini, bookshops and banking halls either to board vehicles to their various destinations, conduct last-minute shopping and pay school fees.

At the popular Machakos Bus terminus, public transport operators capitalised on the back-to -chool rush to hike fares up to double the normal rate.

“There are barely enough vehicles and there are many children reporting back to school today.

The situation is chaotic and to make matters worse, the fare has been doubled.

We have no option but to pay so that our children can return to school,” said Francis Thuo, a parent who had escorted his son to the terminus.

Matatus plying the Maralal- Nyahururu- Nakuru route hiked their fares from Sh500 to close to Sh1,100.

Mike Njuguna, an operator with Nanyuki Cabs revealed that most Public Service Vehicles (PSVs) were actually out of service as they are yet comply with the guidelines by the Ministry of Health.

Peter Mwangi, a trolley pusher also a parent in one of the schools in Kirinyaga County faulted the PSV operators for hiking fares especially at such time when the country is still recovering from the harsh economic times.

“Truth be told, we may be forced to stay with our children at home if they continue hiking fares.  I am worried that we will not be able to do the shopping for our kids,” said Mwangi.

John Kamau,  a driver at Neno Sacco, a public Matatu Sacco which plies the Kirinyaga, Embu and Meru route defended the hike in fares saying the sector was receiving an overwhelming number of passengers yet they don’t have enough vehicles to accommodate most of them.

“This is one of the busiest seasons for us where we try to meet the extra coin. However, with such a huge number of passengers, most operators charge extra coin,” he said.

 For Nairobi- Kiriani- Kangema route, fares were raging at around Sh800- Sh1,000 which translated to double as they usually charge Sh350.

From Nairobi to Wote, Makueni County, things were not different as fares were hiked to Sh1,000 while they normally charge Sh300-Sh400.

 The operators plying the western Kenya-Nyanza route also doubled the fares with most of them citing curfew as one of the biggest challenges for them.

“Even if we want to help, top some extent it will be difficult for us bearing in mind we have experienced the most challenging year.

Our buses used to travel at night but now we are forced to be in town early so that we will be able to arrive before curfew in places like buses,’ said Dennis Ng’anga an operator who works for Cimax buses said.

Nganga said for their case they were charging between Sh2,000-Sh3,500 as they have been forced to carry  60 percent capacity.

 The Transport Ministry, for instance, demands that a 14-seater PSV carry only 10 passengers, a 33-seater 18 passengers and a 51-seater 30 passengers. This includes the drivers and the crew.

 Interestingly, the operators have defied the government’s directive on an increase of fares as learning resumed.

In the directive issued by CS James Macharia on Sunday, PSVs were warned of hiking fares as he also issued new guidelines for drivers having to be tested for alcohol before they can be allowed to transport passengers.

“We have had talks with Matatu Owners and we agreed that drivers must be tested for alcohol. We will not allow anyone who is drinking to get into vehicles,” he said.

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