NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 12 – The Ministry of Transport has announced plans to procure new locomotives to enhance the efficiency of the Nairobi Commuter Train Service.
Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia announced the plan on Monday as the government moved to address a transport crisis that led to an upsurge in the number of commuters on most train routes as Public Service Vehicle (PSV) operators withdrew from roads in light of stringent enforcement of traffic rules.
“A few weeks ago, I sent the Transport Principal Secretary to Spain to see how we can work with some partners to give us more units in terms of running our train services,” he told the press during an inspection tour of the Nairobi Railway Station.
Macharia said the new units will ease the strain on current trains that were Monday morning overloaded, as city residents contended with a shortage of PSVs.
Trains plying most routes were reported to be overloaded with an ensuing scramble by some passengers leading to injuries.
According to the Kenya Railways Cooperation (KRC) Acting Managing Director Philip Mainga, over 16,000 passengers had been ferried to the city by mid-morning.
Projections indicated the number could surpass the daily average of 30,000 by the end of the day.
“We had several injuries because of people scrambling for the train in the morning. We’ve as a result put in place measures to ensure passenger safety,” he said.
KRC Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) train coaches designed to accommodate about 100 people in a mixed configuration of seated and standing passengers were Monday full to the brim with some passengers hanging dangerously on the entrances.
An LHB coach measures 23.54 meters in length and 3.24 metres in width totalling to a floor area of 76.27 square meters.
A conservatory estimate of four passengers per square meter puts the number of passengers in the overloaded trains at 305.
The Transport Ministry said it hoped the new frequency would cater for the increased passenger traffic, with Macharia further pointing out that overloading of passenger trains will not be condoned.
The increase in train frequency was announced even as the government vowed sustained efforts to root out unroadworthy vehicles.
CS Macharia instructed the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) to review licenses of PSV operators who withdrew their vehicles from the roads with a view of revoking them.
“NTSA shall immediately review all licensed PSVs that are not operating as at now. By them not being on the road, they are giving a message that they do not require those licenses,” the CS directed.
He also warned the operators against arbitrarily hiking transport fares saying those involved will have their licenses revoked.
“When we have a shortage of PSVs, it is not a license to increase fares. We’ve noted in some cases fares have been tripled. That is not acceptable,” Macharia cautioned.
Macharia’s warning was echoed by his Interior counterpart Fred Matiangi who said police officers will not backtrack on enforcement of the traffic rules.
The rules adopted 14 years ago during the tenure of former Transport Minister, late John Michuki, require all PSVs to be fitted with safety belts, speed governors capping the speed at 80kmh, and a yellow line painted around a PSV for ease of identification.
The successful implementation of the regulations which came to be famously known as the “Michuki rules” significantly reduced road carnage in 2004-05.
The new enforcement campaign co-led by Macharia and Matiangi had by Monday afternoon resulted in over 2,000 arrests countrywide according to preliminary figures released by the Inspector General of the National Police Service Joseph Boinnet.