After years of planning, construction of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system is set to kick off next month, Kahawa Tungu has learnt.
A Chinese firm, Stecol Corporation, bagged a Ksh5.6 billion deal to start the project aimed at easing traffic in the capital Nairobi.
Housing and Urban Development Principal Secretary Charles Hinga confirmed to Business Daily that the contract was signed last week and the project which entails the construction of special lanes for high-capacity buses through the Nairobi city centre and Thika highway is set to commence in August.
Kahawa Tungu understands that in its initial stages, the project will comprise more than 100 buses operating on dedicated lanes on the Thika highway through the Nairobi city centre to the Kenyatta National Hospital (KHN) area.
Each bus will have a capacity of about 160 passengers who will use electronic cards for payment at the stations.
The stations will be fitted with Wi-Fi and Cofee shops.
“We signed the contract last week and the contractor is mobilising to commence next month for the first phase covering the corridor from Clayworks to Haile Selassie and then to Kenyatta National Hospital. That should be done after eight months,” said Hinga.
Part of the plan is to build a park-and- ride facility at Kasarani. This will allow commuters heading to the city centre to leave their vehicles and transfer to a mass transport bus for the remainder of their journey.
The existing footbridges on the busy highway will guide the placement of the initial stations for the BRT system.
The two innermost lanes of the busy Thika superhighway will be dedicated to the BRT system.
The contractor will erect boarding ramps to ease access to the buses.
The buses that will be engaged in the project will be run by private operators but regulated by the Nairobi Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (NaMATA).
“We have done all the necessary studies and engaged all the stakeholders with national outlook, including matatu associations, on the plan which will now give them a chance to be major players through an operation company which will be contracted to run the services, ” said Francis Gitau, the chief executive of NaMATA.
He added, “What we want is a reliable and efficient mass transit system that will attract even those using private vehicles to use.”
Reports indicate that the state decided to involve private bus operators after running into budget constraints. The move will see the government shelve initial plan to import high-capacity buses from South Africa.
The project, which was launched in 2015 by President Uhuru Kenyatta, remained on hold due to lack of funds to buy high-capacity buses and support transport infrastructure.