OPPORTUNISTIC RIVALS

Private cars new nightmare for PSVs

They are competing for passengers without paying fees ever since Covid hit

In Summary

• Harsh economic times have pushed private cars to venture into passenger business

• PSVs stifled by restrictions find it unfair, but the motorists bribe their way past cops

Private cars parked at a matatu stage in Kisii
Private cars parked at a matatu stage in Kisii
Image: STEVE MOKAYA

Last year, the onset of the coronavirus pandemic brought with it anti-business regulations, such as cessation of movement.

It meant that long-distance passenger vehicles either remained grounded or reduced their fleet and just travelled in areas under lockdown.

But lockdowns did not end passengers’ need to travel long distances, making car owners try their luck in smuggling passengers through police roadblocks into their destinations.

Taking advantage of the corruption pandemic in the country, private cars ferried passengers under tinted windows throughout the year, and have continued to do so even after the lifting of restrictions.

At River Road, the major one-stop stage for upcountry and long-distance vehicles, one can spot private cars parked randomly near major bus company’s offices.

Joshua Katana, a driver, told Star Sasa passengers prefer to use their cars because they are fast and take a short time to fill.

“Within an hour, I will have filled my car and left. Although it’s a bit expensive, we still get passengers,” he said while waiting for his Nissan Note car to fill.

He plies the Nairobi-Mombasa route, operating day and night.

Private cars for Western routes pick passengers on Latema Road, and those for North Rift near Afya Centre.

The cars rake in profits because apart from insurance cover, they don’t incur costs associated with PSVs, including costs for licence for collection points, driver’s good conduct, link to saccos, vehicle inspection reports and others.

A bus driver at Machakos country bus lamented that the government has been complacent in cracking down on the cars that ferry passengers.

“They just need about Sh1,000 to bribe police along the road and they are okay to go as we spend hours here after complying with all the government regulations,” the driver, who plies the Nairobi-Migori route, said.

This story first appeared on the digital magazine Star Sasa, accessible on Sundays for Sh10 by dialling *550*3#

Edited by T Jalio