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PSVs mull reducing fares after low passenger turnout

NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 24 – Passenger Service Vehicle (PSV) operators in most upcountry terminals are grappling with low passenger numbers after fare hikes reportedly forced some city residents to abandon plans to travel out of the capital for Christmas and New Year festivities.

John Agi, a driver with Daima Connection whose buses travel to Migori from the Machakos Country Bus terminus in Nairobi told Capital FM News that only four vehicles had left for Migori by midday on Monday compared to an average of nine during such festivities in the past.

“There was an influx of passengers since Saturday which prompted an increase in fares. That resulted into some of them (passengers) going back home because they just couldn’t afford,” he said.

“A passenger was stuck here with two wives and five children for whom he would pay Sh 2,000 each. Such a family would need to spend as much as Sh 10,000 on fare just travelling to the rural area,” he explained.

Agi attributed the transport crisis to a shortage of vehicles owing to the ongoing crackdown on unroadworthy PSVs, a situation that led to fare hikes due to high demand.

“We only have had four buses leaving by now (noon) yet when there’s good business we’d have eight buses leaving by 9 am. We just can’t tell if we’re going to leave for Migori today or we’ll wait for tomorrow (Christmas),” the bus driver narrated.

Paying as much as Sh 2,000 to Migori, for a journey that is otherwise priced at Sh 800 appeared to be untenable for a number of passengers.

Some PSV operators revealed they were considering lowering ticket prices after a number of town service vehicles acquired Road Service License otherwise referred to as TLBs, swinging the demand and supply pendulum in favor of passengers.

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Passengers who spoke to Capital FM News said they were considering connecting to their rural homes through vehicles linking Nairobi to nearby town centers from where they will board vehicles to their respective destinations.

“I came here yesterday (Sunday) and I wasn’t lucky enough to get a bus. I now have to connect through two or so PSVs from Nairobi,” Mary Wangeci, a frustrated passenger travelling to Nyandarua said.

Fares on her route had shot up from Sh 350 to Sh 500 and further rose to Sh 1,000.

Boarding multiple vehicles home, she said, would even cost her more – Sh 1,500.

Waithaka Mwaniki, a casual worker who aides passengers carry their luggage from main town service termini to the Country Bus terminus said business had been adversely affected by the low passenger turnout.

According to Mwaniki, fare hikes were partly to blame.

“There’s no work. This year is just bad for business. Fares have been hiked,” he said while wheeling some luggage for a group of passengers travelling to Eldoret.

Another casual worker, Raphael Kihara, said luggage handling was only profitable from passengers arriving from outside the city.

Inbound fares were significantly low due to low passenger traffic arriving in the capital.

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