How Kenya's BRT System Flopped - World Bank Report

  • A Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) station under construction along Thika Road at Safari Park footbridge
    A Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) station under construction along Thika Road at Safari Park footbridge
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  • Kenya has for years planned to roll out the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, but poor systemic policies have seen the government fail to lure potential investors into the Ksh100 billion project.

    In February this year, the government assured Kenyans that it would roll out BRT by June of the same year, but nothing has touched base since then.

    According to a report published by the World Bank on Monday, August 1, poor institutional policies form part of reasons BRT system has failed to take off.

    "Unregulated competition from paratransit operators (informal buses, minibuses, and taxis, etc), difficulty of finalizing compensation deals and acrimonious relationships between paratransit operators and the government in SSA affect system revenue," reads part of the World Bank report.

    President Uhuru Kenyatta (right) with World Bank Vice President Hafez Ghanem at a meeting at State House, Nairobi
    President Uhuru Kenyatta (right) with World Bank Vice President Hafez Ghanem at a meeting at State House, Nairobi in March 2020.
    PSCU

    The absence of dedicated and well-capacitated transport authorities, poor coordination among institutions, and lack of political support has also made it almost impossible to adopt a long-term, consistent approach to the financial management of BRT systems.

    Delayed resettlement and land acquisition processes dramatically increased the risks and costs associated with building new BRT corridors, scaring away private investors.

    Also key among reasons for the delay is high incidences of cash leakage, suboptimal, politically driven fare setting and adjustment regimes that affect financial performance of the transport sector.

    Nairobi Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (NAMATA) acting Director General, Francis Gitau, had in February noted that BRT buses would be deployed on Nairobi’s Ksh88 billion elevated road linking Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) to the Nairobi-Nakuru highway in Westlands.

    Setting up of transport costs was also a contested area with the potential operators seeking to set the fares themselves.

    “The fares the buses will be charging is Ksh150 along the Kasarani - Kenyatta National Hospital line that we hope to start operating come June on a pilot basis,” Gitau stated in February.

    He went ahead to note that priority corridors that had been designed for BRT are JKIA to Likoni, James Gichuru - Rironi and Bomas of Kenya to Ruiru roads.

    The World Bank, however, says absence of an enabling legal and regulatory framework and ineffective coordination with existing public transport operators undermines commercial viability of the project.

    Despite the underlying challenges, the multilateral lender also shared key reforms the state must undertake to see the system come to light.

    These include, among others, policy and political will coupled with strong and continuous political support to whip investors to set the programme rolling.

    Kenya has also been advised to set up institutional capacity which should be tasked to oversee the budget, planning, construction, and operations of BRT systems.

    The lender also advised Kenya to come up with a participation model for risk allocation and benefit-sharing among public and private stakeholders should be balanced.

    If not, the bank cautions that private sector participation willingness will be low, which will weaken the price discovery effect of the PPP model and exacerbate rent-seeking and contract breach risks due to lack of effective competition among qualified private participants.

    The Institute of Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) estimated that Kenya requires Ksh100 billion to implement BRT system to ease traffic congestion in Nairobi.

    It, however, remains to be seen with just one week remaining to the August 9 General Election whether President Uhuru Kenyatta's brainchild will make any steps before he exits State House.

    An artistic representation of a BRT pick-up point on Thika Superhighway
    An artistic representation of a BRT pick-up point on Thika Superhighway
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