Students stranded as transport crisis continues to bite

Hundreds of students reporting back to school were stranded at various Public Service Vehicle (PSV) termini as the transport crisis continued to bite following a recent ban on night travel. But there could be light at the end of the tunnel for long distance travellers and students after Matatu Owners Association (MOA) yesterday met Ministry of Transport officials over the matter.

But even with this new development, calls for the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) to be disbanded spread from saccos to independent bodies. Speaking to People Daily on phone, MOA chair Samuel Kimutai said the body is pushing for the extension of travel time to 11pm to ensure normalcy. “The ministry needs to be sensitive and look out for travellers.

We have tried to be diplomatic and have presented our issues as we await the ministry’s review and final response. Meanwhile, all our drivers will be sensitised to avoid the ugly accidents on our roads,” said Kimutai.

The NTSA ban on night travel, which enters its forth day today, hit hard students travelling long distances to their respective schools, as fares were hiked and bookings after midday suspended.

A spot check by People Daily showed most bus termini were winding up bookings as early as 12pm to allow for the arrival of buses to various destinations by 7pm as directed by the transport authority. Travellers, who included mostly students, yesterday caused an uproar at the Easy Coach Limited bus station along Haile Selassie Avenue in Nairobi over delayed transport services and hiking of fare forcing the management to take cover.

Travellers at the terminus wanted a refund of their money, saying some had booked buses as early as December 20, last year yet remained stranded at the station. The situation was so intense that police had to intervene to contain it. Naomi Kipruto, who had booked her ticket to Busia on Christmas eve, said she was supposed to travel on Monday but has since been held at the bus station as the management sought to have more buses in Nairobi to reduce the congestion of travellers.

“I have decided not to travel anymore because I have already wasted two days here. Instead I have opted to change my ticket to an open ticket and travel later when this menace is over,” said Kipruto. Travellers in western Kenya, North Rift, Nakuru, Mombasa and Central region towns also complained of increased costs as they were forced to spend more than they had budgeted for on food and accommodation.

Further, Central Rift Matatu Owners Association called on the ministry to lift the ban, saying hundreds of drivers are headed to a future without jobs as matatu operators will be forced to cut cost of doing business.

Those travelling to Machakos, Thika and Nairobi towns were paying a flat rate of Sh800 up from the usual Sh300 or Sh400. Some transport companies in Homa Bay devised a method of balloting, in which passengers picked pieces of paper written YES or NO when commuters outnumbered seats. Those who picked “Yes” were allowed to get into the vehicle, while those who picked “No” were told to try their luck the following day.

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