Hundreds of passengers, including school going children, are still stranded in various bus stages in Nairobi for the third day in a row.
This is as a result of the ban by the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) on all long distance night travel by public service vehicles following the deadly bus crash at Migaa that claimed the lives of 36 people.
Huge crowds of stranded travellers have been witnessed at various bus parks around the capital city as they try to board the few available buses for travel before nightfall.
At the Easy Coach bus stage and booking office, a crowd of passengers, mostly heading to western Kenya, were at the lounge waiting for buses to arrive.
Pamela Atieno, with a student supposed to report to St Mary's Yala in Siaya County, told Nation that she has been at the stage for a while now, waiting for her son to get into a bus.
"We have been here since 6am and still no bus has arrived. I don't know at what time I will get a bus," said a worried Ms Atieno.
The situation has forced Easy Coach management to give priority to students going back to school a chance in order to allow them to beat reporting deadline with adults being told to wait.
"Let us give our pupils and students the first chance so that they don't get to school late or miss reporting," said one of the supervisors of the company.
The supervisor was, however, optimistic that the backlog will be cleared before noon, saying that more buses were on the way coming back to the city.
The situation was almost similar at the Guardian Angel booking office and stage where passengers were also stuck with no buses in sight.
"I just hope we will get a bus soon just as the management has promised us," said a distraught Lillian Namusonge, who was waiting with her children at the booking office.
In Tharaka-Nithi County, several passengers spent Tuesday night at Chuka Police Station after the vehicles they were travelling in were impounded by police for flouting the night travel ban.
About 10 vehicles including Matatus destined to Nairobi and a bus heading to Mombasa were netted in the crackdown.
The travellers, among them students, were forced to look for alternative means of transport on Wednesday morning as the errant drivers remained in police custody.
The night travel ban has also led to an acute shortage of public transport in Meru Town where hundreds of passengers were stuck.
Addressing journalists, Chuka/Igambang'ombe OCPD Barasa Sayia said the crackdown will continue until NTSA lifts the ban.
"The PSVs were found traveling at night against the NTSA directive,” said Mr Sayia.
He said the ban would reduce road crashes which mostly occur at night claiming the lives of many people.
The officer warned matatu drivers especially those driving 14-seaters who take advantage of the school opening period to make more money by overloading.
He said police will conduct a thorough check to arrest and prosecute the offenders.
Mr Sayia asked travellers to embrace the ban which is meant to safeguard their lives.
A spot check by Nation in Meru Town established that there were less than 10 matatus available for the Nairobi route.
Travelers have been forced to rise up early in the morning to get space in the few available vehicles to travel to their destinations.
At the Meru main matatu terminus, 10-seater vehicles were charging Sh1,500 to Nairobi, up from Sh600 on a normal day.
Passengers using 14-seater matatus were forced to part with Sh1,200 for the trip to Nairobi.
Kensilver bus company vehicles, the only one plying the Meru-Nairobi route is charging Sh600 up from Sh300.
By 10am Wednesday, all Kensilver buses had been booked and passengers were being asked to book for Thursday travel.
For those travelling to Mombasa, their plight has not been different and it has been made worse by the fact buses have stop movement once night falls, even before reaching their destinations.
When she woke up at 2am on Tuesday to travel to Bungoma to catch a bus to Mombasa, the least Ms Hellen Odhiambo worried about was getting to her final destination late.
“Ordinarily, a bus ride from Bungoma to Mombasa takes around 12 hours and therefore I was sure we would have arrived before sun set,” she told Nation Wednesday in an interview at Makindu Town in Makueni County.
NIGHT IN THE COLD
Ms Odhiambo and dozens of other passengers were forced to spend the night on the veranda of an eatery in Makindu where the Simba Coach bus they travelled in parked following the night travel ban.
Hundreds more were forced to spend the night in Mtito Andei, Emali, Salama and smaller townships along the Mombasa-Nairobi highway.
However, industry players and travellers have called for the lifting of the ban, terming it as very inconveniencing and ineffective.
In this list is Ms Odhiambo, her travel mates Catherine Lusaka and Antony Mulongo who were forced to delay their journey by three days, risking their jobs.
“We are spending nights in the cold because we had not budgeted for extra expenses such as food and accommodation along the way,” said Ms Odhiambo as she rocked her three-year-old daughter.
They were scheduled to travel on Monday but they boarded the bus on Tuesday and arrived at the destination Wednesday.
CONGESTED WITH TRUCKS
Seven bus drivers who Nation spoke to blamed the journey breaks “on the slow speed we are forced to travel [at] because the roads are congested with trucks”.
Consequently, the two women, who work at the Export Processing Zones in Mombasa, said they risked losing their jobs because they were running late.
On his part, Mr Mulongo, who is a trained teacher, said that he had missed out on a job interview he was supposed to attend on Tuesday at a private school in Mombasa.
“The government should lift this travel ban as it is founded on a fallacy that accidents happen at night,” he said.
Meanwhile, police officers who had accused six buses traveling to Mombasa of flouting the night travel ban yielded to pressure from the passengers and allowed the vehicles to proceed with their journeys.
Police patrolling the highway flagged down the buses one after the other between Mtito Andei and Manyani shortly before 7pm, the time the night travel ban takes effect, according to passengers caught up in the incident.
“We pleaded with the police to allow us to proceed with the journey to Voi Town which was safe and they eventually gave in,” said Mr Harrison Kamau, who was traveling from Nairobi to Mombasa.
“We spent the night in Voi Town crammed inside the bus whose interior was stuffy and infested with mosquitoes,” added the Technical University of Mombasa student after arriving at the port city Wednesday.
Reporting by Collins Omulo, Alex Njeru, David Muchui and Pius Maundu