Be prepared to pay more bus fare. That was the message from matatu operators after fuel prices rose by Sh7 on Sunday.
In Mombasa, Nairobi, Eldoret, Nakuru and Kisumu, matatu owners said they would set new fares as early as Monday to protect their profit margins.
“Raising matatu fares is inevitable as we are spending a big portion of our earnings on buying fuel. We have to pass the burden to passengers for us to survive the harsh conditions of putting matatus on the road,” said Mr Ali Bates, Matatu Welfare Association (MOA) national vice-chairman.
The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) increased petrol pump prices by at least Sh6.81 a litre, diesel Sh3.67 and kerosene Sh2.14 on Saturday.
In Nairobi, petrol is retailing at Sh118.50, diesel at Sh108.80 and kerosene Sh86.28. In Nyeri, petrol rose to Sh119 and diesel Sh109, while in Eldoret, petrol sold at Sh120.10 and diesel Sh110.7.
In Mombasa most people interviewed said they would have to walk from Kisauni, Changamwe, Likoni and Mtwapa to the town if the fares were raised.
Mr Ahmed Hassan from Kisauni said many residents were already walking to town since they could not afford the current fares of Sh40 and Sh50 between Kisauni and the island.
“Many people are living from hand to mouth due to the rising cost of living. To travel from Kisauni to Mombasa Island is already unaffordable to many. If the matatu owners raise the fares, some of us will be forced to walk on foot to town to overcome transport costs,” he said.
The Kenya Association of Tour Operators Coast branch chairperson Monika Solanki said the new prices would hit her members hardest.
“The fuel prices will adversely affect tour safaris as visiting tourists will not be able to meet the transport costs to parks and game reserves. Small firms which are already struggling to survive will go under,” she warned.
In Nyeri, motorists rushed to petrol stations on Saturday evening to fill up their tanks before the new prices came into effect on Sunday morning.
“This new price of fuel is very high. From Nyeri to Karatina, I would spend about Sh600 on a round trip previously, but now it has gone up to Sh800. It is almost like we are putting all our earnings into fuelling our vehicles,” a Nyeri-Karatina matatu operator Godfrey Ngatia said.
In Kisumu some matatu owners warned they could be forced to withdraw their vehicles due to high running costs.
“Already I’m struggling with repairs of the vehicles, having invested so much money to bring them back on the roads,” said Mr Kevin Omondi, who runs three matatus on the Kisumu-Busia route.
Taxi operators accused ERC of working in the interest of oil companies.
“They have not been up to the task. Why can’t they rein dealers who hoard the commodity, prompting artificial shortage? The entire system needs a complete overhaul,” Mr Charles Ayiro said.
In Eldoret, commuters were stranded after some operators raised fares by to Sh200.
“I came here at 10am and right now (2.30pm) there are no signs of catching a matatu to Nairobi. They are charging Sh1,000 instead of Sh800,” said Mr Kipkorir Kiptanui.
A ticket officer with the Eldoret Matatu Sacco, Mr Daniel Kemboi, said they would be fuelling their vehicles in Nairobi where the prices are comparatively lower.
Reported by Mathias Ringa, Charles Mwaniki, Justus Wanga, Jonathan Komen and Alphonce Shiundu