Chinese firm Stecol Corporation has fended off stiff competition to secure a Ksh5.6 billion deal to start construction of special lanes for high-capacity buses through the Nairobi City centre and Thika Highway next month.
The company bagged the multi- billion contract last week to build the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system which has been touted as a practical solution to Nairobi’s traffic congestion nightmare.
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.
“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,” Housing and Urban Development Principal Secretary Charles Hinga told the Business Daily.
The Chinese firm will begin by demarcating sections of Thika highway to be remodelled to accommodate support facilities such as of boarding stations and footbridges.
A park-and- ride facility will be constructed at Kasarani to offer Nairobi bound commuters the alternative of leaving their vehicles behind and boarding a mass transport bus for the remainder of the journey. The existing footbridges on the busy highway will guide the placement of the initial stations for the BRT system.
According to the Principal Secretary, the new mass transport project would involve dedicating the two innermost lanes of the highway to special high-capacity buses and erecting boarding ramps to ease access to the buses.
The buses will be run by private operators but regulated by the Nairobi Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (NaMATA).
Francis Gitau, the chief executive of NaMATA, said the mass transport project will engage 100 buses in the initial phase before scaling up operations progressively.
“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.
“What we want is a reliable and efficient mass transit system that will attract even those using private vehicles to use,” Mr Gitau said.
The government has conceded that it does not have the finances to buy the high capacity buses from South Africa, hence leaving it to the operators to carry the mantle.
Mr Gitau said some financiers had expressed interest in funding those interested in purchasing the buses which solves the problem for NaMATA.
The government had initially planned to source 32 complete buses from South Africa and another 32 chassis for assembly locally for deployment on an already- demarcated lane on Thika highway and other major roads within Nairobi.
MPs however questioned the thinking behind importing the buses while the supportive infrastructure was not yet in place.
Each bus is expected to have a capacity of about 160 passengers who will use electronic cards for payment at the stations also to be fitted with Wi-Fi and coffee shops.