Night travel ban for busses in Kenya strands hundreds on Mombasa bound train


(Posted 16th January 2014)

Kenya’s ill thought out directive, banning busses from travelling at night, which has brought misery to tens of thousands of travelers not only in Kenya but from across the region, who use busses to get to Kenya overnight and arrive at their destination in the morning, has claimed yet more ‘victims’ when hundreds of people stranded on a train from Nairobi to Mombasa got stuck behind a derailed freight train. That derailment held up all trains behind on the line enroute to Mombasa, including the passenger train in question.

Citing the travel ban for busses at night, railway officials insisted that no relief by bus could be sent – not even under such trying circumstances – to give the passengers on the train a lift for the remainder of their journey to Mombasa, leaving them without provisions to spend the entire night in the crowded compartments.

Reports in recent days suggested already, that the night travel ban has already been fundamentally undermined by conductors paying bribes to police on road blocks while the larger operators, especially those with a decent safety record, blame the government officials responsible for the directive – issued after another gruesome accident – to have acted in panic, haste and without any due consideration for the logistical impact this would have on transporting tens of thousands of people a day across Kenya and into the wider region.

Kenyan officials, from the tax men to transport oversight, are known to often make rash decisions which are then quietly withdrawn when the full folly of their ‘shoot from the hip’ directives became evident, with this particular case now being used to further decampaign a government which already has a reputation of having brought massive tax rises and cost of living increases for the masses.

Rift Valley Railways presently operates three passenger trains a week between Nairobi and Mombasa and vice versa, a service which in the old days operated twice a day, as the focus of the company had clearly shifted to meeting performance targets for cargo over which it had come under growing pressure. This goal was largely accomplished in 2013 when for the first time since the concession was handed to RVR by the governments of Kenya and Uganda full compliance in key indicator areas was reported and major sections of the railway in Kenya and Uganda – the latter from Tororo to Gulu – were refurbished. Cargo deliveries from the port of Mombasa to Uganda recorded an unbroken trend throughout 2013 of cutting down from previously up to 2 weeks to only a few days and joint clearing procedures introduced by the three Coalition of the Willing members Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda has further improved on the speed of cross border traffic.

One Response

  1. The ban on night buses has had severe impacts on the economy, with scores of people losing jobs and many businesses affected. The new rules on public transport make it virtually impossible to run a bus company – managers will be spending so much time on paperwork instead of actually managing buses. The rules were imposed when there is no alternative mode of transport with train transport unreliable and air travel too expensive for most. The irony is, bus companies that have been adhering to the law all along are suffering as much as everybody else that has been banned from night operations.

    Kenya used to boast of 24-hour road transport. Not any more.

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