Firm banks on buses to unlock city’s traffic jam

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The owner of Ashok Leyland is seeking a The owner of Ashok Leyland is seeking a strategic partnership with the Kenyan Government to deploy a multibillion mass public transportation system that it says will unlock Kenya’s perennial public transport challenges. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The owner of Ashok Leyland is seeking a strategic partnership with the Kenyan Government to deploy a multibillion mass public transportation system that it says will unlock Kenya’s perennial public transport challenges.

Already, the Hinduja Group, which is India’s second-largest truck maker, has written to the Transport Ministry with the proposal to initially focus on intra-city buses. The firm’s local agent is Truck Mart Africa Ltd.

Under its Bus Rapid Transport (BRT), the model would be self-financing without any need for the government to provide any funding.

The Exim Bank of India will provide funding through the country’s Buyers Credit Programme under the government of India’s National Export Insurance Account (NEIA) to the Government of Kenya.

The NEIA is a trust set up by India’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry for providing medium to long-term credit insurance cover for promoting projects and exports from India. It is administered by India’s Export Credit Guarantee Corporation.

The financing will cover, 100 per cent, the total cost of the buses, insurance and related infrastructure.

Already Hinduja Group is implementing similar systems in Uganda and Nigeria.

President Yoweri Museveni gave the green light to the implementation of the multibillion system in Kampala early this month.

Kampala will acquire 980 buses and required infrastructure to ease city transport at a credit value of $163.74 million (about Sh16.76 billion) from Exim Bank of India.

An organisation that provides technical transport and planning expertise to governments recently estimated that Nairobi will require Sh100 billion to implement the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) system to ease traffic congestion in Kenya’s capital.

The Institute of Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), which was involved in establishing the BRT system in Dar es Salaam and Johannesburg recently noted that having dedicated lanes for public transport as well as the right vehicles would reduce traffic in and out of the city.

Inner lanes

According to Christopher Kost, the Africa director of the institute, the demarcation of dedicated bus lanes on the inner lanes of the road is a critical element of a high-quality BRT.

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However, the government still has a long way to go if it is to implement the project successfully despite a December 12 deadline issued by President Uhuru Kenyatta by which at least two stages of the project must be ready for him to ride one of the buses during Jamhuri Day celebrations.

Seven million

The proposition by Hinduja Group, comes at a time Kenya is grappling with public transport crisis. The World Bank estimates that Nairobi traffic jams cost Sh50 million in lost productivity every day.

With the city population expected to hit seven million by 2030 and car ownership set to rise from a quarter of the households in 2014 to half by 2025, the need to address the gridlocks has not been more pressing.

The government had in April this year announced that Thika Road will have a dedicated lane for public service vehicles.

Through Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia, the government said it was considering either BRTS or Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS).

“For planning and financial reasons, we are giving the Bus Rapid System priority and urgency,” Mr Macharia had said before the Senate Committee on Transport.

Ashok Leyland had earlier in 2016 said it will open a $10.4 million (Sh1 billion) bus factory in Kenya.

This would be its first wholly owned manufacturing plant in Africa.

The giant automaker, the fourth largest manufacturer of buses in the world and the 16th largest producer of trucks globally, said then the Kenya bus assembly plant would act as its regional hub, with an annual capacity of making 1,200 buses.