Majority of Kenyans are users of public transport services to a fault because commuting via public means is not only affordable to most but also basic.
Kenyan roads have seen a good number of bus companies ply various routes ferrying passengers majority of whom have a personal connection to these buses.
Before the economy opened up to all and the availability of personal vehicles at affordable rates increased, these famous buses that plied the upcountry routes ruled the roads.
1. Eldoret Express
The Eldoret Express bus company was founded in 1982 and began by operating Nissan UD buses.
It was later registered as Eldoret Express Cooperative Company before rebranding to Eldoret Express, ferrying passengers to and from Nairobi to Western Kenya and the Rift Valley.
The buses categorised into the Japan Special and Sweden Special commanded huge subscriptions from its base and ruled the Nairobi - Western Kenya route for quite some time.
While the company is still operational to date, they have lost a lot of ground to new public service vehicles (PSVs) plying the same route.
2. Akamba Bus
The Akamba Bus company was established by Sherali Hassanali Nathoo in what is now known as Machakos County.
Akamba's first national headquarter was in Machakos town which was in the middle of a lucrative route linking Nairobi city and Kitui town.
The main contribution of the Akamba to the colonial economy was skilled labour in industries and government positions in various parts of the colony and the East African region.
Akamba bus services were known for their fair pricing and their ability to operate a secure and reliable parcel courier service.
However, Starting in the 2000s, the company started to face a myriad of challenges. The death of the founder in the year 2000 pushed the company closer to the brink of collapse.
It is alleged that family squabbles brought down the giant company.
3. Kenya Bus Services (KBS)
The Kenya Bus Services Limited was formed in 1934 to provide transport services in Nairobi. For 64 years, the largest shareholders were foreign companies.
It was established when the Overseas Motor Transport Company (OTC) of London started a bus service using 13 buses on 12 routes.
However, in the 1980s, the KBS fleet still expanded and it operated about 300 buses. During the same period, the spatial growth of Nairobi surpassed the original NCC boundaries, and many people started staying in satellite towns.
KBS, therefore, started operating the peri-urban routes to the neighbouring districts, which were previously monopolised by matatus.
That move was seen by the political establishment at the time as an encroachment by KBS into the matatu (indigenous people's) market
In the early 1990s, the United Transport Overseas Service, which had owned the KBS since 1952, did not want to continue with the business.
Secondly, the El Nino rains of 1996 to 1998 further destroyed the poor infrastructure in the country.
Due to these factors, and the stiff competition with the matatu mode, Stagecoach(which owned KBS) sold 95% of its shares.
4. Obuya Express
This was a popular bus company that ruled the roost in the Nairobi-Kisii route. The bus was involved in a number of deadly accidents leading to its untimely demise.
The toughest competition was from Obuya Express, Nyakwengata, Omwabo, Matongo, Omwabo Express, Vimonya, Binyiny, Dolphin Express,
They are famed for making three trips in a day from Nairobi to Kakamega to Machakos.
5. Overseas Transport Company (OTC)
They were long-distance buses known in the entire East African region with a hub in Nairobi.
These buses would go to Dar-es-Salaam, Arusha, Kampala, Jinja, Tanga and Morogoro through other small towns. The buses were efficient, clean and responsible.
The company had its headquarters at the famous Racecourse Road stage that is now immortalised as ‘OTC Stage’. OTC collapsed in the late eighties, brought down by unfavourable government policies.
Akamba Bus Services would fill the vacuum that was left by OTC
Other notable famous buses include; Jangle Manta, Calypso, Otongolo, Kangasha, Webuye Escot, Kirenga, Mawingo, Roadways, Jamhuri, Kensilver which still operates the Nairobi-Meru route.
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