WHO WILL SAVE THIKA FROM IMPUNITY AND THESE TRAPS OF DEATH?

Recent events and incidents among various PSV vehicles operating in the Thika routes has provoked us to revisit the issue of public safety and impunity among the transport stakeholders. As ravenous as hyenas, the matatu and bus crews have thrown caution out of the window and concentrated in the cut-throat race for the passenger's money. Noone cares about the client nor the other road users anymore

A critical analysis of all the PSV Saccos operating within Thika Town and its environs shows an industry that has resorted back to the dirty old ways of the Pre-Michuki era. The passenger is no longer important to this people as long as they pay their money.

I would like to take a brief analogy of some of the most notorious companies that have been abusing the silence and ignorance of the Thika commuters.

I will first start with the 2TS SACCO, not that they are the worst, but by virtual of being the key to ferrying all the 237ners within the town's circles.

First, I commend them for being one of the most organised and disciplined crew in Thika. It is very rare to find commuters complain about this Sacco. Nonetheless, they do have their weak areas. They are known to operate very unroadworthy vehicles which occasionally break down in the middle of the trip. This is usually an issue since they inconvenience the passengers with their time. The other hiccup arises in the refund of fare which in most cases they cut by half regardless where the vehicle has stalled. Funny enough, all these vehicles bear inspection stickers, proof enough that they have passed the roadworthiness test at the Kenya Police Vehicle Inspection Unit.

Another bone to pick with this Sacco is that of late, it has become the norm for their crew to carry 18 passengers as opposed to the regulated 14. This is done even at the Whiteline stage where commuters are asked to 'Kukaa wanne wanne kama orbit' or the famous 'gari ni wanne wanne bila excess' jagon.

Then we have the famous Thika Swift Sacco popularly known as 'magari ya Murengo' which pick-up and drop passengers anywhere and anyhow without considering any other road user's safety. Their crew are notorious of harassing commuters and using foul language without considering the age of the addressee. They would also hike fares in the middle of the journey without prior notice. Whenever one complains, the answer is usually very simple... "Ni mimi nilikuambia 20 bob? We lete 30 wacha mambo ya makanga wa stage ambao hawaendi na gari!" They are also known to be very inconsiderate in terms of the issue of playing loud music.

Then there is the talk of the town, Kenya Mpya Buses. It is a known fact that they run a very big big fleet of buses which are the best maintained in this town. They are also very organised and commuter friendly when it comes to their costing and customer service. But that is where their strengths end.

They have now gotten that very bad reputation of being the unsafest means to ride in. The frequency at which their fleets are causing accidents is now worrying. Their drivers these days have been known to be very rough and inconsiderate to other road users. The fact that they are rumoured to be set very high targets to meet at the end of the day's work may be one reason for their behaviour.

It is also alleged that the management has of late preferred younger drivers to older ones with an intent to maximise their returns. Considering that their fleet is largely very new buses, then one expects cases of over speeding (I really doubt whether these buses even have speed governors) and recklessness.

We also have the Manchester Coaches and matatus which operate with impunity for what most Thikarians consider as being protected by 'higher authorities'. The crew here call the shots when it comes to customer care. Anyone who boards their vehicles is simply there to be seen and never to be heard. So, yours is just kukaa kwa gari ungojee kupelekwa kule unaenda. If we are talking about going to Nairobi, it is common knowledge that during rush hours ,the furthest these vehicles can take you is Survey or KCA University. They will 'sell' you to Nairobi's buses and you end up being dropped where you had not planned to.

Anyway, I can go on and on to describe all these Saccos since very few are unblemished. It does not mean that if I have not mentioned a certain crew that it was out of malice, no. But these are the most complaints that Thika people lodge every day.

It is not a hidden secret that none of these vehicles nowadays have the safety belt, just in case of any eventuality. These are some of the reasons Thika is calling for the revival of the Michuki rules just bring bring back sanity on the roads and reduse road carnage. All these public service vehicles should be installed with speed governors, passenger safety belts, operate in clearly defined routes, carry a specified number of passengers and their drivers and conductors to be disciplined and to have a clean security record.

For those companies that are known to overwork their crew in the hunger for money, there is an urgent need for them to have two drivers who should take turns in driving so as to avoid fatigue

The fact that Hon. Michuki won the battle to bring sanity on public transport speaks volumes about the incompetence of current administrators (N.T.S.A.) and the traffic police department than to the contradiction at the heart of the matatu sector. Michuki had drummed up the courage to rid our roads of the myriad of perilous wheeled death traps paraded as public service vehicles (PSV).

 I am worried that with the current trend, our roads will soon jam with even wheelbarrows as PSVs, and with bodabodas already on board, skull-crushing will become Kenya’s most lucrative industry. Very soon motoring in Kenya will be a question of who crushes the greatest number of human skulls daily

There is need to empower even the county governments to enforce the rules in their areas of jurisdiction to help curb indiscipline and unnecessary accidents.
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