Skip to main content

Why Nairobi doesn't need Syokimaus


Delhi's Bus Rapid Transit system showing bus lanes
against traffic in other lanes
(image: http://blog.propertynice.com
Delhi BRT showing Bus Only lanes (image: strider23.liverjournal.com )
































On 13th November, 2012, Kenya opened its first railway station, as we get to celebrate 49 years since Independence. In a move hailed by many far and wide, Kenya also announced that it had finally broken the curse and built a two kilometre track to the newly opened Syokimau. It is said that this is the first time the railway had seen any action in more than 50 years.

To some, this was the equivalent of Kenya putting a man on the moon. It would bring lots of pride to millions of Kenya, just as the hundreds of millions of Indians see their chest swell with pride when their country launches a rocket into space, or successfully does a nuclear bomb test.

I even saw a few Ugandans, where the presidential motorcade is said to occasionally tag along a Howitzer (Google images), wonder where their country got left off in such remarkable feats.

However, it soon became clear that this national masterpiece wasn’t for all. The average Kenyan produces KSh. 146 per day. For a 15 kilometre journey into the CBD, which was said to take 25 minutes, Rift Valley Railways(RVR) would charge KSh. 110 one way, thus Ksh. 220 for a 15 km journey in a country where the GDP is KSh. 146 per day.

Optimists said that the new service was targeting personal vehicle owners in a bid to decongest Mombasa Road. For only Ksh. 300 inclusive of 10 hour car parking, car owners have being relieved. These people have been waiting for a messiah that would rescue them from driving their cars into traffic jams. With only a light walk from the railway station in downtown Nairobi and having to make sure they didn’t miss the two trains back home, they wouldn’t have to go around swinging their car keys and forgetting them on tables, like they now do.  (Syokimau Charges - http://173.208.16.54/syokimau-commuter-train-schedule-fare-and-parking-charges/)

Optimists also termed it as a small start that would slowly pick up.

A few days later, reality hit Rift Valley Railways and the fare was would be an offer at Ksh. 100 for a return journey. The train even got delayed one day when the engine wouldn’t pull the carriages. The passengers were offered a free ride the following morning.

It however emerges that RVR, which was running a daily passenger service to General Motors (GM)- Mombasa Road and Athi River, cancelled the service in favour of the new express Syokimau one.

A hawker who has spread her wares beneath the GM flyover does not understand why RVR cancelled the service. She says it was very popular with lots of commuters. But clearly, it wasn’t as prestigious as the Ksh. 400 million Syokimau railway station that sparkles in the eyes of vandals and scrap metal exporters.

Elsewhere, it appears as if RVR has completely halted train services between Nairobi and Thika, which was among the last few active tracks left. On Sunday, the railway track around Wiyumiririe - a town on Thika SuperDuperHighway - had considerable amount of earth dug from under it, leaving the tracks hanging. The railway at this point is placed on an embankment.

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) looked at the possibilities of mass transport systems in Brazil (http://www.managementthinking.eiu.com/sites/default/files/downloads/Public%20transport%20in%20Brazil_0.pdf). Costs for rail systems for selected cities start at Ksh. 7 billion per kilometre for a proposed surface subway in Boston to KSh. 41 billion per kilometre for a proposed underground subway in Boston. The cheapest underground railway subway is KSh. 12 billion per kilometre in Montreal, while New York is forking Ksh. 140 billion per km for its underground subway. The 40 kilometre Thika SuperDuper Highway cost KSh. 32 billion in total, KSh. 0.8 billion per kilometre.

Furthermore, EIU did a study of four Brazilian cities’ mass transport systems. Three of the cities run a subway and all had expenses exceeding revenue and their annual cost per kilometre in double digits. One city run a bus rapid transit (BRT). The BRT city had its transport system’s revenue exceeding expenses, while cost per kilometre was in the single digits.

In Europe, public transport in a number of cities is subsidised at between 40 percent and 60 percent of cost.

Bus Rapid Transit Systems are roads which see buses having their own exclusive lanes alongside major roads. The buses have to and fro lanes and bus stops inside these lanes, and no other vehicles are allowed into them. This allows fewer buses to be more predictable, be safer and avoid traffic jams hence being faster and efficient.

EIU says BRT cost between KSh. 0.8 billion per kilometre (just like Thika Road) and KSh. 4.3 billion per kilometre.

Delhi recently embarked on 345 kilometres (Equivalent distance between Nairobi and Kisumu) of BRT at a cost of between KSh. 2.2 billion and Ksh. 3.4 billion per km. New Delhi residents are however very angry. It takes an hour longer to cover distances on the BRT, in their personal cars. They have even gone to court to have the buses make way for their cars. http://businesstoday.intoday.in/story/the-real-cost-of-delhis-brt/1/2165.html and http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2010-10-28/delhi/28267824_1_brt-shastri-park-karawal-nagar-rites-report)

Nairobi does not need Syokimaus. We need a Bus Rapid Transit system - its affordable, faster to implement and matatus will no longer need to overlap.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A Kenyan in Addis Ababa (Part 2) - The "University Girls"

This post continues from Part 1. 

The residents of Addis are friendly too. On my first day, I did meet a guard at a hotel, who later offered to show me around. Among the places he suggested, was this place where some “University girls” were holding some "dancing ceremony". He added, that Ethiopians being Orthodox Christians, were about to go on a sex, alcohol and meat fast, hence the importance of this “ceremony.”
I had some suspicion that I was being sold to sex, but my guide insisted that this was not a sex sale. Just dancing University girls. We did end up in some nondescript compound, and into a house. There was sort of a sitting area, with a radio system, low benches and tables, and grass sprinkled around the floor. Grass sprinkled around the floor is an Ethiopian tradition that indicates you are welcome to a place.

It was about 5 PM,  and the hosts seemed not to be expecting any visitors at this time. My guide disappeared down some corridor into the back to call them. In…

Beers in Kenya: A sober opinion

I have had a short beer swigging stint in my life. It has however been long enough for me to share my opinions of Kenyan beer. Interestingly, over the course of sharing such opinions with other drunkards connoisseurs,  I have found that we all have different views as to what beer is the best, which one makes you too drunk, or which one gives a free,  extra hangover for every hangover you get from it.
For starters, like everyone else, I discovered that beer isn’t as sweet as it looks like in those adverts that show golden barley swaying in breezes,  happy men smiling and toasting chilled, foaming glasses of beer as a deep voice does some narration in the background.
Beer is bitter! Now, it turns out beer is intentionally made bitter. See,  beer shares the same ingredients as bread. The major difference is that bread isn't fermented. Bread is sweet, so why isn't beer sweet?

The bitter story of the downfall of Mumias Sugar company

Have you heard the bitter story of Mumias Sugar?

Regarded by many as Kenya's most successful sugar miller, Mumias Sugar Company was a disaster waiting to happen.

Many pointed out how Mumias Sugar Company was a fortress in the wreck that is Kenya's sugar industry, only unaware that it was just a matter of time. As the old wise men said, "Ukiona cha mwenzako cha nyolewa, tia chako maji".

The proverb means that if you see your neighbour's head getting shaved, your head will soon be undergoing the same - you'd therefore better wet your head for a smoother shave, otherwise you will be forced to undergo a painful, dry, shave.

But what ails Kenya's sugar industry?

The Kenya sugar industry is under legal siege. The typical Kenyan issue of coming up with laws to tackle a problem is evident here.

Many of Kenya's sugar factories are owned by the government, and have slowly declined under mismanagement and corruption. The appointing of political cronies and trib…

Why we loved Mixcrate and Where to next?

There are two types of music listeners: those who listen by artist or by album, and those who listen by top hits. The second lot of us do not care much about what other music made it to an album besides the top 2 hits.

Mixcrate served the second lot of us very well. You could search for a song title or an artist, and you would have dozens of DJ mixes to choose from which contained more than the one hit you searched for.

Listening to music on Mixcrate also meant that once you settled into a mix, you had uninterrupted music for the next one hour.

Kenya Power customers suffer from Ksh 0.5 billion faulty prepaid meters

Kenya Power is a famous company in Kenya, one which draws what my colleagues in media will call "mixed reactions". While those in urban areas such as Nairobi regard Kenya Power as a very unreliable firm, I have heard of villages in rural areas where blackouts go unreported for even 3 days . To the rural people, recent electrification means that at least they get to get electricity for some days, which is better than no electricity.

In urban areas, the story is not any different. Around Imara Daima along Mombasa Road, power is mostly reliable, with blackouts been few in a week, and even at times been less than 10 in a month. In other places in the city, blackouts are a daily occurrence, and in some places, the blackouts are more than meals, counting two teas , breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Another aspect about Kenya Power is the prepaid meters, which like the firm, are equally loved and hated.

Ever since I became proud enough to start paying my own bills, I have used the Keny…