Why travellers are keeping off Machakos Country Bus ‘airport’
Deteriorating security and upsurge in crime at the Machakos Country Bus terminal in Nairobi’s city centre has turned into a case of one man’s loss being another’s gain.
Victims of the unruly and brutal bus agents who have had enough of the ‘cartel-like group’ have vowed never to use the traveling point.
This decision, has been a blessing in disguise to the more organised and formal passenger service vehicles owners who have been making a killing as fed-up travellers troop away from the up country bus station where bus agents operate in brutality, harassment and outright theft.
PEACE OF MIND
This has been epitomised in the way the booking offices for these coaches and shuttles always teem with passengers who are ready to cough up more money in exchange for tranquility, peace of mind and one’s security; services that conspicuously miss at the once busy station which had earned it the nickname ‘airport’.
With the realisation that this is a flourishing industry, many coaches including Transline Classic, Guardian Angel, Easy Coach, Blueline Safaris, Transafaris, South Rift, North Rift, Great Rift and Kitale shuttles just to mention a few, have come up to take a bite off the ever burgeoning cherry.
Mr James Omae, a ticket-cashier at Galaxy Express – a new upcoming travel company – who has interacted with a number of those who were die-hard Machakos Bus Station clientele concurs with their accounts.
He notes that many are resolving to use the other bus stages, largely due to insecurity, harassment and unclear programmes for the buses at the famous bus stage.
‘PUSHED AND PULLED ALL OVER’
“Who would wish to be harassed when boarding a bus, pushed and pulled all over, not knowing where your luggage is nor where they could be taking you, and sometimes even children going missing in the confusion after being separated from their parents. Then eventually, when you get to their bus, they charge you more than they had initially said and the only option is to comply?” he poses.
Transline Classic Coaches head of customer care Edward Nyachoti opines that the avalanche of passengers moving from the crime den, that is Country Bus, has seen the coaches cultivate a loyal customer-base that has resulted in booming business.
“Their mistreatment and harassment of customers wins us more customers. Their loss is our gain as it is very hard to have our vehicles going without passengers. Our customers come here themselves and are not forced,” he says.
Mr Nyachoti states that the firm started over 12 years ago, with only four shuttles bought three buses after a year in business.
But now it has over 100 vehicles, where 54 are coaches. The company is also set to launch 10 state-of-the-art coaches that will carry only 37 passengers by next month, an indication of a thriving business.
He says that they charge fixed fares of Sh800 for their shuttles which ply the Nairobi-Kisii route and the same amount for their buses which ply different routes like Kisii, Homa Bay, Mbita, Migori among others and Sh1000 for far destinations like Kisumu and Siaya.
WILLING TO SACRIFICE
For Mr Nyachoti, their passengers are willing to sacrifice anything just to save themselves from the chaos and embarrassment meted at Country Bus.
But why are the coaches a magnet to passengers even though they charge fares that exceed what is being levied at the other stage?
Mr Nyachoti mentions security and a constant fare that does not change with seasons as major points that have kept the travellers devoted to them.
Mr Moses Nderitu, a staff with Great Rift Shuttle agrees with Mr Nyachoti’s assertions saying the situation at Machakos Country Bus has been a blessing to them as it has seen them grow fast where they started with only three buses in 2004 but currently has over 82 shuttles.
“About 20 shuttles can go to Kitale in a day when business is good but on slow days around eight make the trip,” avers Nderitu.
He says that their fares range between Sh700 and Sh1000.
A senior manager with Guardian Coaches says that trickery on where the vehicle is going and departure time has seen many passengers regret ever using the Machakos stage.
“We have channels where we can be reached for booking and even when luggage is misplaced,” he says.
FIXED TIME FOR DEPARTURE
He mentions advanced booking service, ticket replacement in case of an emergency, fixed time for departure and security of travellers as some of the enduring factors that will continue to see the sector blossom even more.
“We started with only 2 buses in 2012 but now we have 70 tablets and 80 coaches divided into luxury, royal and executive and all have loyal customers. We have also expanded our routes from only Kisumu and Kisii initially to more than 10 routes currently.”
The staff states that the formal passenger services buses keep on expanding their reach and services they offer with the sole aim of attracting even more travellers to their companies.
He is bullish that it is only a matter of time before the informal Machakos Country Bus services grind to a halt unless concerned stakeholders clear the mess perpetuated by the ‘criminals’ operating at the stage.