14-seat matatu li­cens­ing rises

TRANS­PORT Li­cences for low ca­pac­ity ve­hi­cles more than dou­ble as bus reg­is­tra­tion rises by 67 per­cent

Business Daily (Kenya) - - FRONT PAGE - Keziah Kin­uthia kkin­[email protected]­tion­media.com

The num­ber of 14-seater mata­tus li­censed more than dou­bled in 2017 com­pared to a year ear­lier even as the gov­ern­ment ex­pressed its in­ten­tion to re­duce low ca­pac­ity ve­hi­cles.

14-seater mata­tus ac­count for 69.6 per cent of all PSV li­cences is­sued in 2017

The num­ber of 14-seater mata­tus li­censed more than dou­bled in 2017 com­pared to a year ear­lier even as the gov­ern­ment ex­pressed its in­ten­tion to re­duce low ca­pac­ity ve­hi­cles in favour of big­ger pub­lic ser­vice ve­hi­cles (PSVS).

This came after a Jan­uary 2016 le­gal no­tice stop­ping li­cens­ing of 14-seater pub­lic trans­porters in favour of PSVS car­ry­ing 25 peo­ple and above was de­ferred to Jan­uary 1, 2019.

The sus­pen­sion was aimed at en­abling matatu own­ers to in­vest in high ca­pac­ity ve­hi­cles in a planned grad­ual phase-out of the 14-seaters.

Ac­cord­ing to the Kenya Na­tional Bureau of Statis­tics (KNBS) the num­ber of PSV li­cences is­sued for 14-seater mata­tus in­creased by 109 per cent from 17,926 in 2016 to 37,382 in 2017, while the num­ber of PSV li­cences is­sued to buses in­creased by 67.3 per cent from 7,210 in 2016 to 12,064 in 2017.

“For the last one and half years, in­vestors have been buy­ing the 18-seaters mata­tus com­monly known as ‘box’ which has bet­ter re­turns com­pared to mini buses," says As­so­ci­a­tion of Matatu Op­er­a­tors spokesper­son John Methu.

“A box matatu goes for about Sh2.8 mil­lion to Sh3.2 mil­lion and has a low in­sur­ance cov­er­age. Be­sides, it will earn you about Sh7,000 per day while the 33 seaters which will cost you Sh5-5.6 mil­lion will earn you be­tween Sh8000-9000 in a day. A 14-seater costs about Sh2.4 mil­lion.”

Ac­cord­ing to Ni­code­mus Ga­toho, chair­man of one of the op­er­at­ing sac­cos on the Thika–nairobi route, the group in­vested heav­ily in the 18-seaters be­cause they are more com­fort­able and have a wider wheel base, which makes them more com­fort­able than 14-seaters.

“Pas­sen­gers don’t like the 33-seaters be­cause they’re un­com­fort­able and rel­a­tively slow. Be­sides, these buses have a lot of me­chan­i­cal prob­lems and the fare rel­a­tively low, hence lower re­turns," Mr Ga­toho said.

The move to phase out PSV with car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity of less than 25 is crit­i­cal to thou­sands of in­vestors who need time to re­pay loans.

More­over, com­muters could face yet an­other trans­port cri­sis if this or­der is im­ple­mented since 14-seater mata­tus ac­count for 69.6 per cent of all PSV li­cences is­sued in 2017.

In­ter­est­ingly, the KNBS data shows that PSV li­cences is­sued to mini buses al­most halved from 8,213 in 2016 to 4,246 in 2017.

The Na­tional Trans­port and Safety Au­thor­ity (NTSA) dis­missed claims of a whole­sale ban on 14-seater mata­tus say­ing only 14-seater com­muter PSVS op­er­at­ing within Nairobi would be af­fected.

On De­cem­ber 7, Trans­port Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary James Macharia in­di­cated that re­liance on low-ca­pac­ity mata­tus is not sus­tain­able and linked it to the con­ges­tion and dis­or­der rife in ma­jor ur­ban ar­eas such as Nairobi, Mom­basa, Nakuru and Kisumu.

Three-wheel­ers, pop­u­larly known as tuk tuk, have also had a strong ride in the decade to last year.

The KNBS data showed that reg­is­tra­tion of three wheel­ers jumped 603 per cent to 5,167 units in 2017 com­pared to 735 units in 2007.

One of the rea­sons for their ris­ing num­bers has to do with their prices of be­tween Sh390,000 and Sh400,000.

They also fill up with pas­sen­gers faster than mata­tus of buses and will earn the owner at least Sh1,500 daily.

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