Public Service Vehicles (PSV) increased fares across the country as travellers panicky of the coronavirus outbreak relocated to upcountry as the number of confirmed cases rose to 31.
In Nairobi passengers complained that the operators who were compelled to carry half the capacity to minimise transmission of highly contagious diseases double their fares to cover the cost of fuel.
The Operators claimed that they were counting losses following the directive to carry specified number of passengers in order to adhere to the social distance rule
Speaking to KNA, one of GANAKI SACCO top official, Mr. Njoroge Watere supported the move, however, he noted that it came at a cost. “Despite this we have not hiked fares and are spending money from our savings,” said Njoroge, an accountant.
GANAKI is among the few matatus SACCOS within Nairobi that have adhered to the Government’s directive to Public Service Vehicle (PSV) to mind the welfare of commuters by not raising fare.
This has not been easy for the Nairobi-Kiambu plying matatu SACCO as all PSV’s now carry half passenger capacity but cover the same distance sometimes running at a loss as fuel prices remain the same.
Worse still they also have to compete forthe few available passengers, especially in the morning hours asmost people have adhered to stay at home call.
Njoroge said, despite the act being philanthropic they cannot sustain their vehicles on the roads for long.
Similar sentiments were echoed bya driver with the same SACCO, Samuel Muigai, who appealed for reduction of fuel prices to save the PSV industry.
Muigai told KNA that in spite of carrying half the vehicle’s capacity, he still makes eight trips in a day sometimes operating at a loss.
“After deducting all the daily expenses, my conductor and I are left with little or no profit. How will we survive like this?” posed Samuel.
Njoroge believes that GANAKI SACCO understands commuters’ plight. He added that the SACCO is empathetic on the sacrifice their drivers were taking and it is not in vain.
He said the SACCO’s efforts, particularly maintaining the pre-directive fares has been appreciated by customers. This, he added, is because some matatu operators have taken advantage of the miserable scenario to exploit passengers by hiking fares.
The SACCO official’s word of advice to all in matatu industry is that, “The cardinal aspect of life is self-preservation. It would cost us more to treat people than to contain the virus. I urge PSVs to follow the set guidelines provided by the Ministry of Health.”
Judy Koomo, who is among the conductors operating with GANAKI 108 SACCO,said she has also felt the pinch of social distance directive.
“My duty is to ensure passengers sanitize before boarding the SACCO’s matatus,” she said, regretting that the number of commuters has dwindled in the past one week.
“People like me who depend on these casual jobs of getting passengers hardly get paid for the day’s work. It’s really bad out here,” Judylamented.
“The pandemic is affecting everyone. We are all in this together. The only way the Government can intervene is to reduce the fuel prices to ease the burden on both the commuters and the matatu operators,” Esther Makhona, a daily commuter said.
Matatu SACCOS are currently in an engagement with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Transport on how to implement the directive seamlessly but efficiently.
In kakamega county plying various routes in Mumias West have increased fares by between sh50 and sh100 for the last three days.
They are charging sh150 to sh200 from Mumias to Bungoma and the same amount from Mumias to Kakamega.
Passengers travelling to Kisumu from Mumias will now pay Sh350 from Sh300 and Sh200 to Busia up from Sh150 from the same venue.
They have however complied with the directive that they carry eight passengers in the 14 seater matatu that is commonest amongst most routes in the area.
Most of them are also providing hand sanitizers to every passenger that boards their vehicle in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus.
A spot-check by KNA Wednesday found many buckets of water for washing hands at Mumias bus stop that had been put by stall owners at the locality.
A Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) operating in the area Nasio Trust is carrying out training on hand cleaning to travelers at the bus stop. They have put water in several drums with soap for use by the travelers.
The Sub-County Police Commander Mr. Paul Kipkorir has said that PSV operators found carrying excess passengers will face the law.
He commended those who have complied with the government directive and asked everyone in the transport sector to do the same.
The PSV operators however said that most of their daily customers who work in public and private offices in several towns were off the road.
By Andy Morgan ,Abigail Munene and Catherine Nyongesa