Coastweek -- This
week is in reality the final week in which people will be
seriously at “work”,
writes TETI KAMUGUNDA.
looseness and restlessness is setting in and most people
clustering over the coffee making station are probably
exchanging ideas about where to go or where they have already
planned to go – or not to go – during this festive season.
Kenyans traditionally travel to their rural homes – or shags –
and this trend is still very strong though the budding and real
middle class is showing shifts.
A large number of
Kenyans will be heading for the coast as will many tourists from
The increase in the
number of charter and regular flights that land at the Moi
International Airport in Mombasa will lead to peak occupancy in
The clash of both
international and local tourist peaking can only bode well for
the economy of the coast.
The coming of the
SGR as well as the increased number of local airlines that fly
to the many coast airports has created easier access to may
destinations that were hitherto expensive to get to.
The SGR was launched
on the thirty first of May last year and this is the second
Christmas period that it will have been in operation.
For may it seems
that it has been there forever!
The fact that it is
fully booked is an indication of the opportunity that its launch
has brought about.
Even when it is not
holiday season, the Madaraka Express – as the train service is
called – is still enjoying a very high occupancy which would
suggest that the owner of the service should already be planning
to increase frequency of the trains.
extension from Nairobi to Kisumu will very quickly demand
additional services as wananchi settle to the fact that rail
travel is probably the safest and most reliable form of movement
from one key city to another.
For many, travel to
their Christmas destinations will be road and as always, we
For those travelling
by bus, please select a bus company that has a good reputation
in terms of accident and vehicle break down record.
A little bit of
research will quickly tell which are the safest. Obviously, not
everyone can get a seat on the preferred buses.
For those who cannot
get bookings on buses that have a good reputation then one has
to ensure that they literally take their lives into their own
First, prior to
travel, create acquaintances amongst fellow travellers and once
you get some rapport going, then start the safety conversation.
Enrol then into
action that you suggest should be taken in case the driver
starts over speeding or is driving dangerously or suspiciously.
This will allow for
crowd pressure should things appear to be getting out of hand.
In such circumstances there is safety in numbers.
Should this not work
then be ready to ask to get out of the vehicle at the first
available location knowing that finding another one will be a
challenge and prepare for the eventuality as well.
IT always pays to
have the booking office numbers of several bus companies and
What I normally do
when I travel is to use the simplest test if I am not sure about
the reputation of a public service transport provider.
I look at the
condition of the fleet at the terminus.
If they are well
appointed and have hardly any accident scars than it is likely
that the organisation is well grounded in safety.
The next thing to
look for is the amount and quality of the waiting space as well
as the ambience of the booking office.
If these turn out
positive then it is another indicator that the service provider
is likely to be a good one.
The last test is to
be sensitive to the way that the booking staff treat you.
The manner in which
they treat you will tell you a lot about the culture of the
organisation which can be a strong indicator of the way that the
drivers and operators of their routes work and whether to trust
the safety promise.
For those that
choose to drive – and there are many of these – we repeat the
First be cognisant
of the fact that there are nearly two hundred and fifty thousand
vehicles being added to the roads in Kenya each year.
The rate of
expansion of the trunk roads in Kenya is zero at the moment. The
only major activity is to upgrade the quality of the roads.
These two facts mean
that there is no capacity increase to match the growth in
numbers whilst the quality increase means that the traffic will
Increase in density
and speed means that the likelihood of accidents is increased.
This is made worse
by the fact that our driving manners are getting worse –
especially as the matatu driving norms are rapidly influencing
the way the average Kenyan drives.
The other factor is
how well serviced our cars are.
We have to make sure
that the safety critical items are all working – brakes,
indicators, ABS, headlights, windscreen wipers and so forth.
Tyres are also
important as a tyre burst would be catastrophic.
The efficacy of the
steering system is also a key safety consideration.
There should not be
too much play in the system as this will delay or limit the
response time in case of emergency.
The key thing for
drivers is that their vehicles should be such that they do not
create a safety hazard by breaking down or compromise their
emergency reaction by letting the items critical to this
reaction get into a state of disrepair.
Those travelling by
road should also choose their times carefully. I used to be a
believer in planning for very early morning departures or
arrivals in early evening. Because of the high density of
traffic and the bad behaviour of drivers in our country, I now
prefer to drive during the day because I will be in charge of
most the safety options that are available to me as a driver.
The weather man has
also warned that we are in an El Nino period so the weather is
an important consideration when we are planning when to travel.
So, for those
travelling for the holidays, we urge you to be careful in your
choice of mode of transport and once the choice is made, then be
extra careful in terms of safety preparedness as well as the
choice of time of travel.
As Kachumbari says,
the best way to travel will be the safest means - and no other!
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