businessdailyafrica.com Wednesday, September 28, 2016
If matatu business is a byword for chaos, then Ongata Rongai route sums it all up. Despite the frequent patrols by police and National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) officers, many passengers still associate the route with loud music, speeding, overlapping, road rage, accidents and in extreme cases, death.
Most of these excesses are normally concentrated along the eight-kilometre Magadi road, that narrow stretch of road between Bomas of Kenya turnoff on Langata road and Ongata Roing town itself.
And yesterday, students of the Multi Media University blockaded the road. They were protesting the death of one of their own in a grisly road accident involving Ongata-bound matatu along Lang’ata Road that claimed four lives on Sunday.
The accident is said to have been as a result of reckless driving and speed, which the new matatus plying the route are infamous for.
Ongataline Transporters Limited, a fleet management company responsible for the ill-fated matatu has since been deregistered as a public service operator by the National Transport and Safety Authority.
In a release by NTSA, members of the public have been advised to avoid boarding these vehicles, which will be impounded if found operating.
The Ongata Rongai route has gained notoriety over the flashy, colourful and loud matatus referred to as nganyas. They are mostly driven recklessly and flout rules without any regard for commuter safety.
This has resulted in daily checkpoints being erected by NTSA along the route, mainly from 3pm to tame the overlapping menace responsible for the unending gridlock on the road to the highly populous town.
Alternative routes to and from Rongai including Gataka Road and Kibera have become a norm for motorists looking to bypass the snarl-up on the route.
During rush hour in the evening, the eight kilometre stretch from Galleria Mall to Rongai can take between an hour to two and a half hours to cover, instead of the 15 minutes it takes on a clear day.
These vehicles have been known to charge fares between Sh150 and Sh200 during rush hour and Sh100 during off-peak hours while other vehicles charge Sh50 to Sh100 for off-peak and peak hours respectively. Nganyas are popular among students of the universities along the route including MMU, Catholic University, Nazarene University and Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology (Karen Campus).
In a letter by Ongataline Transporters to NTSA, the matatu claims to have over 240 employees including drivers, conductors and route inspectors.
The letter to the Director Road Safety NTSA referenced non-compliant motor vehicles and crews request the authority to intervene in disciplining four of the vehicles under the fleet manager’s umbrella that have been violating licensing regulations.
The matatus included on the list dated September 9, included the vehicle that crashed on Sunday.
“It has been quite hard on our side to tame the crew; we have resorted to withdrawing their RSL’s which we surrendered to your office on 01/09/2016 and we requested your office to take further action. We have reported these violations severally to the traffic department of the Kenya Police but so far no action has been taken. We as Ongataline have no powers to arrest and we can only inform your office for further instructions,” read the letter.
As at September 25, 2016, NTSA had recorded 2,225 fatalities and 3,669 injuries as a result of road accidents. This includes pedestrians, drivers, passengers, cyclists and motorcyclists.
Public service vehicles have a set maximum speed of 80 kilometres per hour on the highways but some have been seen to drive above this.
Speeding has been termed as one of the biggest contributors to a high fatality rate whenever a PSV is involved in an accident.
The government has since 2014 clamped down on speeding PSVs including the requirement that each should be fitted with a speed governor.
Umoinner Sacco was in 2013 grounded following an accident that claimed 12 lives. Similarly, last year NTSA suspended several Saccos following fatal accidents.
In January 2015, Embu based Neno Sacco was suspended following an accident that killed 10 people. Investigations showed that the matatu’s speed governor was faulty and that the driver was speeding and overtaking at a dangerous spot.
Kabras Line Sacco was suspended in May the same year after an accident by one of its vehicles, leaving nine people dead and two seriously injured.
Eastern Bypass Sacco was also suspended after four people lost their lives in an accident involving one of its vehicles.
Namaki Sacco was suspended after one of its matatus was involved in an accident that left three people dead.
Egesa Shuttle Sacco operations were suspended following an accident where one person died and three were seriously injured.
In June 2015 NTSA also suspended operations of the giant Embassava Sacco after one of its buses collided head on with another killing two people. The sacco which manages over 733 vehicles that ply the Eastlands routes.
Sema Sacco was also suspended in the same month after one of its buses rammed into a trailer leading to the death of seven people.
The suspensions were lifted after they took their staff members through training on road safety and customer service.