TOURISTS STRANDED BY STRIKING TRUCK DRIVERS
A massive traffic jam along the main highway to Mombasa was blocked yesterday for over 8 hours by striking truck drivers, with cars on both sides of the Mariakani weight bridge backed up for over 20 kilometres.
As a result were safari vehicles stranded for the duration, in the absence of any bypass or detour possible, leaving tourists infuriated by the delays getting them to the game parks, while those returning from safari to their respective beach resorts too were victims of the strike.
According to a Mombasa based source did the truck drivers strike over allegations of massive corruption at the weight station, where allegedly vehicles with ‘arrangements’ are allowed to pass while the rest is subjected to harassment, intimidation and worse, or so it has been alleged.
These allegations are not new and weigh bridges have for long been identified as money extraction machines for corrupt police officers, though no amount of government action, transfers of personnel or arrests have been able to change that. Said a regular source from the Kenyan coast in response to a mailed enquiry: ‘This is the low season and we need every tourist we can get. Now those who came and went on safari yesterday were messed up by these issues which have been festering for a while. We need weigh bridges to protect our roads from the massive overloading which has in the past destroyed even new roads very quickly. But these stations need to be professionally managed and effectively supervised to prevent corruption. This was not a good day for tourism and the affected clients reached their destinations very very late. Traffic in and out of Mombasa can be bad and we demand that the highway must be expanded, the bypass to the south coast constructed and a second bridge built over Tudor creek to the northern mainland. There are reasons we have been demanding this for many years and the new government must act if they are true to their word to boost tourism. Without infrastructure, tourism cannot prosper, and we in Mombasa demand equal rights to Nairobi where so many new highway and bypass projects are underway. This is not right’.
Sometime last year was traffic stuck in and out of Mombasa for nearly a day, when road works, combined with undisciplined driving by trucks caused a major traffic jam. The tourism industry also has for long been asking for a bypass from the international airport in Mombasa, linked to the Nairobi – Mombasa highway, to the south coast in Ukunda, to facilitate easier road transport and avoid the often unreliable ferry crossing at Likoni. Added the source: ‘When we get our international conference centre, the roads must be ready too to carry that added traffic. There is no point to build new facilities if tourist and business visitors cannot reach there, or miss flights because of traffic jams. The central government and the county government must sit down with stakeholders and show us the way forward, the time for talking is really at an end now’, signaling increasing frustration with the past lack of attention to coastal infrastructure developments. Watch this space.