• MoA Chairman Simon Kimutai on Wednesday said Nairobi city does not have an established railway network that can cripple the sector.
• Kimutai said their only worry is how the government has discriminated the public transport sector with the Covid-19 protocols.
The Matatu Owners Association has dismissed claims that the introduction of commuter rail services will pose a major threat to the sector.
Chairman Simon Kimutai told the Star that Nairobi city does not have an established railway network that can cripple the sector.
Kimutai’s sentiments come after reports that matatus will be barred from entering the CBD starting next month when the much-anticipated Nairobi Commuter Rail Service is launched.
With the launch, travellers will be ferried to and from the Nairobi Central Station under the Commuter Rail Project, a collaboration of the Kenya Railway Service and the Nairobi Metropolitan Services.
The project has been touted as a game-changer in the reduction of both vehicular and human traffic jams in the city.
The commuter rail is part of the master plan of an integrated commuter system within the city and its environs.
It also comprises the Bus Rapid Transit, monorail and underground rail.
Some of the infrastructures and amenities are still under installation. Recently, Kenya Railways imported high capacity Diesel Mobile Units.
Operations have started in the Embakasi, Pipeline and Doonholm railway.
The three railway stations are among the 10 KR is upgrading and constructing.
The others are at Umoja, Kibera, Thika, Mbagathi Way, Kenyatta and Strathmore universities, Kitengela and Thogoto.
Park and ride services will be available at the designated stops. The motorists will park at the stations and board the City Rail System buses to and from the city.
President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to launch the termini next month, NMS director-general Mohamed Badi said when he recently appeared before the National Assembly’s Committee on Administration and National Security.
Kenya Railways had in February announced it would purchase 11 refurbished DMUs for Sh1.15 billion from 11 refurbished DMUs, five coaches and spare parts from Serveis Ferroviaris de Mallorca.
The new DMUs will ply five routes from Nairobi Central Station to Embakasi Village, Syokimau, Kitengela, Kikuyu and Thika.
Kenya Railways is targeting a daily commute to the CBD of 1.5 million people.
But Kimutai said since the railway services will be targeting specific groups of people like those who trek, it will not pose a big threat to the sector with the large population.
“In fact, we are happy because the railway network is going to complement the public transport. Nairobi has a big population and therefore it will be a fair competition,” he said.
Kimutai said their only worry is how the government has discriminated the public transport sector with the Covid-19 protocols.
He said it is unfair for the government to allow air and railway transport full capacity while giving the matatu sector a mere 60 per cent.
“All we are asking for is a fair share. How effective is one meter away? Protocols must be observed but what of the business, we feel that opening of railway and air with full capacity why allowing matatu 60 per cent is discriminatory,” Kimutai said.
He added, “If you go to bars people are drinking, shouting and hugging each other yet when it comes to us we are told protocols must be observed”.
Kimutai said with the current situation, the government should focus on encouraging personal responsibility which is key to flattening the curve instead of oppressing the matatu industry.
“Telling us to provide soap and water is not enough. We are already making losses, where should we get money to provide for the sanitisers. Our businesses have dropped to over 60 per cent and the government will likely not get taxes if the situation is not salvaged,” he said.
While refuting claims that the matatu sector was planning to strike, Kimutai said he has called for a stakeholder meeting on Thursday where they would make recommendations and seek an audience with the state before any action is taken.
As this unfolds, NMS has maintained matatus will be barred from the city centre next month according to its city decongestion plans announced in September.
Matatus using Jogoo Road and Haile Selassie Avenue will terminate their journeys at Muthurwa and those using Mombasa and Lang’ata roads at the Railway Golf Club.
Those plying Thika Superhighway will terminate their journey at the newly completed Ngara and Parklands termini.
Also, an expressway will be set up running from the Kenya Planters Cooperative Union near the Wakulima Market all the way to Jogoo Road.