The public transport sector is set to undergo a revolution of sorts this year.
Major reforms have been lined up for the sector, comparable only to those that occurred in 2004, when then Transport minister John Michuki made the last attempt.
The reforms that start this year are on two major fronts — the beginning of the end of the ubiquitous 14-seater matatu and the registration of matatus under saccos and not individuals.
A third proposal to restrict the 14-seater matatus from entering Nairobi’s Central Business District has, however, been met with skepticism, with calls to the Transport ministry not to effect it.
Starting today, the government will not be registering new 14-seater matatus, meaning those that have imported the vans would have to look for alternative uses for them.
The old ones will, however, have their licenses renewed and the plan is for them to die out naturally as they age.
Matatu Owners Association chairman Simon Kimutai, praised the Transport ministry’s directive on the 14-seaters, saying it would give the industry an opportunity to grow.
“I don’t see us experiencing any hitch because the directive sounds a bell for us to begin organising ourselves. Matatu owners and operators should begin bracing themselves for change,” said Mr Kimutai.
The economic lifespan of a 14-seater matatu is up to five years, with additional time dependent on the frequency of service and its age.
According to Mr Dickson Mbugua, the chairman of the Matatu Welfare Association, the 14-seaters will eventually take up to 10 years to be completely eliminated from the roads.
The plan is to have the matatus replaced with buses with occupancy of at least 25 passengers, and which will hopefully ease the congestion Nairobi.
Mr Kimutai and Mr Mbugua said there was need for the government to not only reduce the cost of operating the matatus but to provide incentives for those who intend to buy the larger vehicles.
“We would want the government to offer subsidies such as low interest rates for those buying the vehicles, low deposits for the loans and longer repayment periods,” said Mr Mbugua.