Sunday, December 23, 2012

High fares fail to put a damper on Xmas travel

PHOTO | DANIEL IRUNGU A view of the Machakos Country Bus station on December 21, 2012.

PHOTO | DANIEL IRUNGU A view of the Machakos Country Bus station on December 21, 2012.  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By SUNDAY NATION Team newsdesk@ke.nationmedia.com

Crowds of Nairobi residents on Saturday thronged matatu terminuses to travel to their upcountry homes for the Christmas and New Year festivities.

And, as happens every holiday season, public service vehicle owners took advantage of the numbers and increased fares.

A spot check around terminuses in the city centre found that travellers from Nairobi to Meru were parting with Sh800, up from the usual Sh450, while those travelling to Kisii from Nairobi were paying Sh1,300, up from Sh800

Twelve-seater shuttle mini-buses to Eldoret, Kitale and Bungoma were charging Sh1,400, up from Sh900. Likewise, passengers travelling to Kakamega by shuttle were paying Sh1,500, up from Sh800.

Nairobi-Mombasa route operators were charging a minimum of Sh1,500, up from the usual range of Sh800 to Sh1,200.

Matatu crews told the Sunday Nation that they raised the fares to compensate for the fuel they would use on the return trip to Nairobi without passengers.

Some residents in Nairobi estates had a hard time getting to the city centre due to a shortage of matatus as most owners have diverted their vehicles to the more lucrative upcountry routes.

Supermarkets around the city also teemed with shoppers. Families jammed the stores to take advantage of Christmas offers on foodstuffs, and perhaps cart along some goodies for their families in rural areas.

Meanwhile, in Busia County, three people died on the spot and 10 others were seriously injured in an accident at Mundika on Saturday morning.

According to a witness, Mr Evans Masiga Okello, the 6 am accident occurred when the driver of a bus that had just dropped passengers off in Busia town and was on the way back to Nairobi tried to overtake a bus headed to Kisumu from the town.

“The driver of the Nairobi-bound bus lost control. The bus veered off the road and rolled several times before landing on its roof,” said Mr Okello.

Mr Vincent Okang’o Opong’o, a survivor who lost his wife in the accident, said they boarded the bus in Nairobi together with their daughter and were supposed to alight at Bumala, but the driver did not stop.

“The driver failed to stop despite our plea for him to do so, and this has cost the life of my wife,” said Mr Opong’o. “I have seen the body of my wife trapped, and there is nothing I can do to retrieve it.”

When the Sunday Nation visited the scene, three bodies were still trapped in the bus.

Thirty-nine other people survived the accident with minor injuries.

Confirming the incident, Busia acting DC John Cheruiyot and Busia OCPD Kenneth Kimani said police have started investigations to ascertain the cause of the crash.

Mr Kimani said that most accidents occur due to human error and urged drivers to be especially vigilant during this festive season as there will be more people travelling to visit their loved ones.

“Drivers should strive to save lives at all costs,” he said.

Mr Kimani also confirmed that two other people died on Saturday after a pick-up ploughed into them at Rakite near Bumala market along the Busia-Kisumu highway.

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