No travel rush this Christmas, transporters say


• Matatu owners say there is low passenger movement mainly from Nairobi to other parts of the country, even as PSVs operate on half capacity.

• Over 60,000 matatus and buses operate on the Kenyan roads on a normal day.

Players in the public transport sector have noted a lowkey festive season this year as the movement of passengers remains subdued in the wake of Covid-19.

Transporters have reported low business at a time when traditionally, demand for road transport is always high as Kenyans travel upcountry and to the Coast for festivities.

Matatu Owners Association says there is low passenger movement from Nairobi to other parts of the country, even as PSVs operate on half capacity.

Bus fares are also expected to remain on average for the different routes as opposed to spikes seen during the Christmas season, transporters said.

“There is not much movement this festive season. We don’t see any rush,” chairman Simon Kimutai told the Star on Thursday.

Over 60,000 matatus and buses operate on Kenyan roads on a normal day.

The association has attributed the low numbers to the Covid-19 impact on households, which have been forced to cut on budgets.

A huge number of city dwellers are also said to have left the city after losing jobs due to the pandemic. Companies started shedding jobs on the onset of the pandemic in March.

“Many people relocated and are yet to return, so there is not much movement this festive season,” Kimutai said.

Traditionally, bus parks such as the famous Machakos Country Bus Station have had commotion during these periods as city dwellers scramble for transport to different parts of the country.

Buses plying the Mombasa-Nairobi-Kisumu route and other parts of Western Kenya have, however, reported good business.

“We are full until after Christmas,” Mash East Africa general manager Lennox Shalo said.

The company operates between Mombasa-Nairobi and the East Africa region (Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda), served by a fleet of 60 buses.

Due to social distancing measures, the company has been carrying 24 passengers instead of 44 since resuming business in July after the end of the cessation of movement into and out of the Nairobi Metropolitan Area, Mombasa and Mandera counties imposed on April 6.

This has affected its revenues, management notes, a trend seen across the entire PSV sector.

“People are traveling this festive season though the numbers cannot be compared to previous years,” Shalo said.

Easy Coach, which serves the vast of Western Kenya, Nyanza and the Rift Valley region with a fleet of about 100 buses, has also reported movement from the city, though lack of return traffic is eating into its revenues.

“All our buses are sold out for the Christmas period but this is one way. When recalling the busses they come empty,” managing director Azym Dossa  said.

The ban on night travel has also seen its fleet delay to return to the city, which the management saaid has made it difficult to plan routes.

“We are, however, doing our best to move Kenyans between the city and other parts of the country,” Dossa said.

Domestic flights have had a price rise as demand increases into the festive season.

For instance, low-cost carrier Jambojet is selling tickets at between Sh5,540 and Sh12,000 on the Nairobi-Mombasa route, from a low of Sh1,900 to an average Sh3,400 it sells during normal periods.

An online booking inquiry by the Star also showed Fly540 is asking for between Sh6,000 and Sh10,980.

SGR passenger trains (Madaraka Express) are fully booked for next week.

The road transport sector has been loosing up to Sh840 million daily since the onset of the pandemic, which has seen them operate on half capacity, with a ban on night travel reducing its income.


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