Bus firms hit hard by new train service

Passenger bus companies say they are experiencing low business after the launch of new train services two weeks ago.

Mash Bus Company General Manager Lennox Shalo says morning passenger traffic had reduced, but added that they were trying to cope with the situation.

“At times buses, especially those leaving in the morning, depart with 25 passengers instead of the normal 42. But the evening schedule has not been affected,” he said on Wednesday.

He said they were planning to launch services in new routes.

The reduction in the morning schedules is more than 50 per cent and the bus companies are expected to be hit harder when Kenya Railways launches two more trains between Mombasa and Nairobi.

10,000 passengers

Over the past 12 days, Madaraka Express has transported at least 10,000 passengers both ways.

This means with a bus carrying 42 passengers, the companies have been robbed of 238 bus loads, or nearly Sh10 million in revenue assuming the fare averages Sh1,000.

“We are not against the train services and we know Kenyans have embraced it but we are still studying the business environment before we decide what to do.

“Our immediate plan is to get innovative by expanding our services to new routes,” Mr Shalo said.

Fair competition

He, however, asked the government to allow fair competition to ensure their businesses were not seriously affected.

“Undercutting will not benefit the economy because if bus companies start incurring huge loses they will cut down costs including reducing their workforce will be job cuts which will not be good for the economy,” he added.

A ticket clerk at Coast Bus said they had also recorded a downturn.

“The number of passengers visiting our offices for booking has gone down by about 50 per cent,” she said.

At the moment, the firms are hanging on to the convenience that their services provide including dropping passengers in Nairobi and Mombasa city centres, unlike the train that drops them at Miritini and Syokimau in Mombasa and Nairobi respectively.

Downplayed impact

However, Modern Coast Bus Company communications officer Isaack Audi downplayed the impact of the new train services on the company’s operations.

He argued that the number of train passengers so far was a drop in the ocean compared to those travelling on their fleet of buses operating across the region.

“We have not been affected much but rather got a new challenge that requires us to adjust our ways of doing business,” said Mr Audi.

Travellers have complained of challenges accessing the Miritini Station due to congestion of the road especially at Jomvu.

Interviews with travellers at the Miritini station Wednesday said travellers were spending up to Sh200 shuttling between Mombasa Town and the station using matatus and motorbikes (bodaboda).

Traffic jams

“Sometimes you take a matatu that gets stuck in the traffic jam and you have to take a motor bike and ending up paying up to Sh300,” said Bernard Oduor, who was travelling by train for the first time.

“For one to book a ticket you need to travel to Miritini a day before, which is quite inconveniencing. There is need to introduce online booking soonest possible,” he added.

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