For a long time, matatus have enjoyed the public transport monopoly within Nakuru town.
The 14 seater matatus used to be the main mode of public transport for commuters residing and working within Nakuru town and its environs, giving the operators the power to regulate fares at will.
But currently, the situation is completely different courtesy of the introduction of tuk tuks that offer alternative transport services.
The three wheeled motor vehicles with a capacity of four passengers have taken over the industry by storm.
It is an invasion that caught the matatu operators unawares and is now giving them stiff competition.
The competition created by the two modes of public transport has resulted in rise of fierce rivalry that has seen them clash on several occasions over termini and passengers.
For matatu operators, the invasion by tuk tuks has greatly disrupted the initially lucrative transport business in the multi-billion shillings sector.
The most recent clash was witnessed at Free Area in Nakuru Town East Sub-County in March where the two groups fought for three consecutive days over a terminus.
Tuk tuk drivers paralysed movement along the Oginga Odinga Road that links Free Area, Naka and Section 58 estates to Nakuru town. They were protesting a move by matatu drivers plying the same route to bar them from using the stage.
The matatu drivers had accused the tuk tuk crew of interfering with their business, carrying excess passengers and charging low fares.
Mr Joseph Ngari, an official of the Free Area Travelers Sacco, said the trend by the tuk tuk operators of carrying more than double their capacity and charging low fares is threat to their business.
According to Mr Ngari, the matatu’s are authorised to ply the route and are competing for the same customers with the tuk tuks which are supposed to operate as taxis.
“What we want is a fair play. The tuk tuks should operate as taxis and should carry only three passengers as required by law,” said Mr Ngari.
But the tuk tuk operators maintained that they have a right to operate along the route.
Led by their chairman, Peter Waiganjo, they accuse their matatu counterparts of harassing them and their passengers for no lawful reasons.
He denied claims of carrying excess passengers and charging low fares, saying that passengers love their services because of convenience.
“It is wrong for the matatu operators to try to forcefully push us away yet we are also trying to eke out a living. This dispute should be solved amicably,” said Mr Waiganjo.
Other routes on which the rivalry has played out include Shabaab-Nakuru route, Mawanga-Bismark-Whitehouse routes.
The Nation has learnt that the rivalry has been perpetrated by the emerging shift by commuters who prefer to use of tuk tuks.
Ms Terry Wafula, who works in Nakuru town, prefers using tuk tuks for transport due their convenience, saying they also fill up quickly.
“I prefer using the tuk tuk which is cheaper and faster compared to a matatu which usually takes long to fill up,” said Ms Wafula.
On the other hand, those who opt to use matatus say they are comfortable and safe on the road.
Mr Robert Makori said he gets irritated by the noise from the tuk tuks’ engines, which, according to him, is unpleasant.
“I prefer using the matatu which is more comfortable especially when we encounter heavy traffic on the road and also their prices are constant,” said Mr Makori.
NO FARE HIKES
A matatu driver who spoke to Nation disclosed that it has become difficult for them to hike fares when fuel prices go up due to the alternative cheaper modes of transport.
Police have confirmed that both parties have lodged complaints against each other.
Police boss Helena Wairimu said they have launched investigations into the incidences to establish possible malpractices.
Nakuru East Sub-County Commissioner Herman Shambi said they are in consultations with various stakeholders in the industry to ensure that there is no unfair competition between the two operators.