PSVs reap from high Christmas, New Year travel demand

The rush to travel has seen fares increase by more than 50%

In Summary

•A spot check by the Star shows most buses serving the Nairobi-Rift Valley-Western and Nyanza regions were fully booked.

•The Nairobi-Mombasa and the Nairobi-Kisumu trains and airlines have also reported good business

Passengers stranded at Machakos Country Bus due to hiked fares/
Passengers stranded at Machakos Country Bus due to hiked fares/

Long-distance passenger vehicles operators are making a killing from the high travel demand over the festive season with fares increasing by up to 50 per cent.

This is mainly from Nairobi to the Coast and upcountry as holiday makers and families travel to different parts of the country for the festivities.

A spot check by the Star yesterday  indicated most buses serving the Nairobi-Rift Valley-Western and Nyanza regions were fully booked up to December 27.

Similarly,  full bookings back to the city are recorded between December 30 and January 2, a few days before schools reopen.

“Demand for December is quite high but we hope to send and receive empties (empty buses) in order to accommodate the passengers,” said Azym Dossa, managing director Easy Coach, which serves the Western, Nyanza and Rift Valley regions with a fleet of about 100 buses.

Gurdian Coach and Ena Coach which also serve the wider Western-Nyanza region also said tickets were sold out.

From  Mombasa,  Mash East Africa which has operations in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, with a fleet of more than 60 buses, also reported full bookings this week.

"Our buses are full until December 25," general manager Lennox Shalo told the Star, noting there has been an increase in fares.  

On Thursday, the Matatu Owners Association (MOA) national chairman  Simon Kimutai said the jump in fares is as a result of high demand for travel, even as transporters try to recover from losses incurred during the dusk-to-dawn curfew, and reduced carrying capacity when the social distancing rule was in place.

The high cost of fuel has also played out, MOA said, where a litre of diesel which is widely used in the transport sector is currently retailing at Sh110.60 in Nairobi.

A litre of petrol is going for Sh129.72.

"Fares are adjusted to sustain higher costs, fuel, allowances and other expenses," Dossa said.

Kimutai said:"It is an equilibrium, the demand is high, the operating costs are high including fuel, so operators have to increase fares to make a profit ...we are making good business."

Normally, it would cost Sh 800 between Nairobi and Migori by bus. This has gone up to an average Sh1,500 with some companies charging up to Sh2,000.

Fares between Nairobi and other major towns such as Naivasha, Nakuru, Nyeri, Nanyuki and Meru have also increased, MOA said.

Trains (both the Nairobi-Mombasa SGR and the Nairobi-Kisumu Metre Gauge Railway), and airlines have also reported good business.

Meanwhile, the association has urged PSV drivers and other motorists to be cautious to minimise accidents. 

“Care about yourself and the other people you are carrying,” Kimutai told drivers.

On Wednesday, four people died and several others sustained severe injuries  in a crash involving a Mombasa-bound passenger bus and a trailer at Manyani area in Voi along Nairobi-Mombasa Highway.

In a different accident, one person died and scores of others were injured after a matatu rammed into the rear of a stalled lorry along the Nairobi-Nakuru highway.

A day earlier (Tuesday) three people had died while several others sustained injuries in a fatal accident along Koma-Kenol road in Machakos county.

At least 3,900 people have died on Kenyan roads due to accidents from January up to November 16, 2021, National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) data shows, compared to 3,200 deaths in the same period last year, representing a 16 per cent increase.