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Nairobi BRT lane is for electric buses only, says PS Hinga

A Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) station under construction along Thika Road at Safari Park footbridge by the Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) in this photo taken on June 4, 2021.

 

Private motorists on Thika Road will be barred from using the inner lane of the highway once the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system is launched.

Charles Hinga, the Principal Secretary (PS) in the State Department of Housing and Urban Development, says only electric passenger buses will be allowed on the lane, in the plan intended to decongest the busy highway.

The launch of an efficient public transport system is intended to incentivise private motorists to stop using personal cars, which contribute to congestion and traffic jams.

“We’re making good progress. The fabrication of stations is ongoing, and park ‘n’ ride facilities, bus depots, a command centre are all under construction. Electric buses will be procured via a public-private partnership (PPP),” said Mr Hinga in an interview. However, no date has been set yet for the launch of the Thika Road BRT system.

The Thika Road BRT will see the buses share the road with other vehicles but they will have a designated inner lane of the road and will not be separated physically from the other traffic lanes.

The high capacity electric buses, the PS noted, are expected to reduce the cost of public transport as they will be cheaper to operate, attract cheaper financing and reduce the country’s carbon footprint.

A spot check by Nation.Africa found that passenger pick-up and drop-off points are linked to footbridges that will serve as BRT stations along islands between the carriageways.

The stations have been designed in such a way that entry and exit from the stations are through the footbridge, which means passengers will not have to worry about crossing vehicle traffic lanes. The plan also leaves little room for commuters to slip or sneak through motorways.

“The stations have taken care of everyone. There is a ramp to get to the top of the footbridge and a special lift to take wheelchairs down or up the station. In other words, there is universal access,” said Mr Hinga.

A spot check by Nation.Africa found that pick-up and drop-off points are linked to footbridges and that will serve as BRT stations along islands between the carriageways.
The stations have been designed in such a way that entry and exit from the stations are through the footbridge, which means passengers will not have to worry about crossing lanes. The plan also leaves little room for commuters to slip or sneak through motorways.

“The stations have taken care of everyone. There is a ramp to get to the top of the footbridge and a special lift to take wheelchairs down or up the station. In other words, there is universal access,” said Mr Hinga.

He also confirmed that the BRT system will be operated by the private sector, not the government. It is however still not clear who will own the buses.

Thika road BRT station

A Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) station under construction along Thika Road at Safari Park footbridge by the Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) in this photo taken on May 19, 2021.

Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group
The BRT concept, which aims to decongest the city and reduce travel time, is being supervised by Nairobi Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (NaMATA).

Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia in 2019 told Parliament that the government would spend Sh5.8 billion to construct a lane for high-capacity buses along Thika road in a bid to ease Nairobi’s traffic congestion.

The Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) is overseeing the project, which is one of the five BRT system corridors planned in Nairobi.

“The design infrastructure is going on under KeNHA, which has estimated the cost to be Sh5.8 billion,” Mr Macharia told the National Assembly Committee on Transport.

Park and ride facilities

A park-and-ride facility is being constructed at Kasarani to allow motorists heading to the city centre to leave their vehicles and take BRT transport for the remainder of the journey.

The project is being carried out in two phases. The first phase is between Clayworks, through the CBD and then to KNH, while the second starts from Clayworks to Ruiru.

There shall also be a bus terminal at KNH, and depots in Kasarani and Ruiru as well as a transfer station at the Nairobi Railway Station. Along the corridor will be non-motorised transport.

So far, works on designated BRT stations are ongoing at Garden City, Safari Park, Roysambu, Clayworks, Kahawa Barracks and Kenyatta University.

In January, NaMATA released a schedule of the long-awaited BRT system, which contained the time and routes the BRT buses will ferry commuters to and from the CBD to Nairobi estates.

NaMATA said it will first deploy buses across five city routes that have been allocated lines – Ndovu, Simba, Chui, Kifaru and Nyati.

The authority has since pushed for the approval and gazettement of the five-node BRT network that will see commuters enjoy hourly bus services.

Bus schedule

NaMATA’s five routes will cover the CBD, Kenya’s financial hub of Upperhill and straight into various estates.

Ndovu line will open at 6am from Kangemi, and run through Westlands (6.15am), the town centre (6.30am) onwards to Nairobi West (6.45am), NextGen Mall (7am), and end its first journey at 7.15am.

A similar schedule is planned for a second BRT bus running in the opposite direction from Imara Daima (6am), arriving at Kangemi at 7.15am.

Ndovu line also has a second trip planned for the same route starting at Kangemi and Imara Daima at 7am through the same route until 8.30am.

For the morning trip, Simba line runs from Bomas of Kenya through Blue Sky/T-Mall and on to the Nairobi CBD, then through Thika road on its way to Ruiru township.

Chui line has been reserved for the Njiru-Showground route connecting the two nodes via the Nairobi CBD while Kifaru line is dedicated to the Mama Lucy-Dohnhom-CBD-T-Mall-Bomas-Karen-Kikuyu route, while Nyati line links Ridgeways (Kiambu road), Balozi (Allsops) to Imara Daima estate.

The BRT is to be complemented by the commuter rail network that will expand to include Limuru, Ngong, Ruai, Kenol-Murang’a, JKIA and Konza, and the newly introduced Athi River and JKIA nodes, in addition to the existing ones in Kiambu Town, Ruiru and Syokimau.

The five BRT and seven commuter rail corridors have been gazetted, with infrastructure being developed across Nairobi to accommodate buses and new trains acquired to help ‘move’ Nairobi.

This is part of an integrated public transport service linked to the Nairobi Commuter Rail Network (NCRN) that has commuter stations in Kikuyu, Embakasi Village, Pipeline, Donholm, Dandora, Kahawa, Ruiru, Athi River, Githurai and Mwiki.

According to the NaMATA, traffic gridlocks cost the capital’s economy almost Sh110 billion ($1 billion) a year in lost productivity. – nation.co.ke