Multi-billion Likoni cable car project runs into headwinds
Reuben Mwambingu @reubenmwambingu
Towards the end of April 2015, news of the Likoni Cable Express (LCE) started filtering to the excitement of hundreds of thousands of commuters who use the crossing channel daily.
Government records indicate the project proposal was admitted into the public-private partnerships (PPP) pipeline under the Privately Initiated Invested Proposal (PIIP) in 2015.
Under the PPP unit portal, the project is described as a proposal to implement an aerial cable car connection for the Likoni crossing to link the South Coast to the Mombasa Island, capable of moving 5,500 passengers per direction per hour, with a daily operational time of 17 hours.
“The expected output will be provision of an aerial cable connection on the Likoni crossing complete with the actual system, associated infrastructure and billing/management capability,” the portal states.
When the news of the project came to light at the time, the then Kenya Ferry Services (KFS) Managing director Hassan Musa, hinted that the project which was to be undertaken in partnership with Trapos Ltd, was expected to be in operation in 2016.
It was envisaged to be an absolute turnaround to revolutionise movement of passengers and traffic across the channel.
The project was envisioned as a state-of-the-art multi-gondola cable car system connecting either side of the Likoni channel crossing which would reportedly involve 22 cable cars suspended 90 metres aloft, moving 5,500 passengers per direction per hour, an equivalent of 11,000 passengers per hour in both directions.
Since then, residents have waited with bated breathe for the new mode of transport amidst the imaginative sensation of floating through the sky, travelling at 7.5 metres per second, with the breathtaking view of the Kilindini channel 90 feet below.
A ride in the stylish LCE would cost between Sh20 and Sh100 varying between off-peak and peak hours respectively.
But that notwithstanding, for the daily ferry users, the promise would be fascinating news as the project would mean that journey time between the mainland side of Likoni and the island which normally takes between six to eight minutes, will now be cut down to under three minutes.
Despite the promise, the project did not commence at the stated time. In 2017, KFS and Trapos Ltd signed an agreement for the implementation of the Likoni Cable Car Project to the tune of Sh5.8 billion.
This followed negotiations between KFS as the contracting authority and Trapos Ltd, a consortium incorporating Kenya’s Trapos and Doppelmayr Garaventa Group, an Australian Company as the private partner.
During the signing of the partnership KFS announced that they were expecting to launch the project before the end of 2019.
In 2018 the construction of the project was approved by the Cabinet.
However, to date, the companies involved- Likoni Cable Express and Trapos Ltd- are yet to roll out the project, with hopes of residents enjoying the fascinating technology diminishing each year.
“Since 2016 we have been waiting for the cable cars and it’s now four years down the line but we are still waiting.
I highly doubt whether the promise will be delivered,” Nzuga Hussein, a frequent ferry user said as year 2020 was coming to an end.
And with the construction of the floating bridge and plans to construct Mombasa Gateway Bridge, questions abound as whether the Likoni cable express project will continue as earlier intended.
Likoni Cable Express executive chair Gerald Muigai is confident about the project, saying being a pioneering cable car project in Kenya, there were a lot of things that were not in place and needed to be dealt with before the start of the project.
“We needed to develop standards first. And all these were not within the expected time frames for developing projects.
So this pushes you back. We have spent time with Kenya Bureau of standards coming up with the right standards.
Remember this is a new thing. It has never happened in sub-Saharan Africa,” Muigai said in an interview with Business Hub.