High-capacity city BRT project in limbo

Special stations, management company, fare collection system, roads expansion not yet done

In Summary

• Namata has not put together all systems required to make BRT a reality.

• 64 initial buses from South Africa are yet to arrive; 300 needed on Thika superhighway, 380 on Mombasa Road.

A lane along Thika superhighway
NEW SYSTEM: A lane along Thika superhighway

You will not ride on the much-hyped Bus Rapid Transit any time soon.

The Nairobi Metropolitan Area Transport Authority still needs to put in place bus stations, a management company, a fare collection system and other infrastructure.

A piloting phase will follow in which 64 high-capacity buses will be used to decide fare, configure stations and for training before transitioning.

Even then, only if you live in Kasarani and its environs will you be among the first to enjoy what has been touted as the ultimate solution to Nairobi's crazy traffic. 

Namata CEO Francis Gitau on Monday said the authority is yet to put together all these systems required to make BRT a reality.

Gitau told the Star buses are just one of the things but a mindset change is vital.

“Urban mobility will have to be aligned to travel demand," Gitau said.

He said the formation of bus companies and creating a business model for the venture to be attractive would be meticulously done.

“We are now developing a communication strategy with what message, who to deliver and to whom,” he said. 

This is likely to dash the hopes of many city dwellers despite Transport CS James Macharia exuding confidence the buses were indeed ready.


Macharia on March 10 told the Star they are waiting for a second batch of 31 buses.  

“The first batch was 32 buses. What we are now trying to do is fast-track the construction of stations and other supporting infrastructure so that as the buses come we shall have proper infrastructure,” he said.

The CS said about Sh1.2 billion needed to roll out infrastructure had been allocated.

On April 29, Matatu Owners Association chairman Simon Kimutai tore into the government terming implementation of the BRT project as “putting the cart befor the horse”.

“Bus Rapid Transit is a process that needs systems and infrastructure to be in a place that meets international standards. We need a management company, fare collection system and controls,” Kimutai told the Star.

Kimutai said successful execution of a project of such magnitude takes up to 10 years.

Details of how and who will run the BRT are scanty.

On February 9, 2017, President Kenyatta formed Namata through an executive order.

The authority's role is to oversee establishment of an integrated, efficient, effective and sustainable public transport system within the metropolitan area.

Namata covers Nairobi, Kiambu, Kajiado, Machakos and Murang’a counties.

Gitau said the buses brought from South Africa are about 12 meters and do not require any infrastructure change.

He said that Thika superhighway will need 300 BRT high capacity buses when the project has been fully rolled out, while Mombasa road needs 380.

“Kasarani is a great place to start working. We will work with the National Youth Service and the Ministry of Sports,” he said.

Gitau denied the transport sector had been taken over by cartels, saying the private sector invested in it for close to 30 years.

The buses ordered from South Africa have to conform to the KS-372- bodybuilding standards developed by the Kenya Bureau of Standards.

In January, CS Macharia announced that the first batch of Sh1.6 billion high capacity buses would arrive from South Africa in a matter of a few weeks.

But the 64 buses are yet to arrive months later. Five BRT corridors were to be launched to decongest Nairobi roads. 

The corridors are to be marked by red lines. Line 1 is to run from James Gichuru Road-Waiyaki Way to JKIA, a distance of 20km.

Line 2, which is 31km long, will run from Lang’ata Road to Ngong Road, Juja Road, Komarock Road to Ruiru. It will have major stops at Dandora, Kariobangi and near Gikomba Market.

Line 3 will run from Githurai through Thika Road to Moi Avenue in the CBD and terminate at Kenyatta National Hospital.

Line 4 will cover 14km from T-Mall to Jogoo Road, while Line 5 will be on Outering Road.

Nearly all the corridors have not been secured. For instance, Juja Road has to be expanded.

In November, Africa programme director for Institute for Transportation and Development Policy Christopher Kost said expanding roads will be a problem because most road reserves have been encroached on.

Only Thika Superhighway and the newly built Outering Road will not require expansion.