Information was received from Nairobi that the Kenyan government intends to come to the aid of the Kenya Ferry Company, a parastatal body responsible for running the Likoni ferry services which connect the island of Mombasa with the southern mainland.
According to details obtained, some 1.3 billion Kenya shillings have been set aside in the upcoming budget to help the ferry company meet down payment requirements for two new ferries which are to enter service by either 2016 or 2017 at the latest. Ferry users have regularly complained, tourism operators the most in fact, over regular long delays in boarding the ferries, apart from regular breakdowns and go slow actions by staff. The coast tourism industry has in fact for long advocated the construction of a bypass from near the international airport in Mombasa and off the Nairobi to Mombasa highway directly to the south coast to avoid the Likoni bottleneck.
“If our government had acted in time to construct this bypass highway, could the situation for the beach resorts in Diani be much better? Tourist transfer buses would use that road from the airport and completely avoid the UK travel advisory black-listed areas of Mombasa and Likoni. Visitors from upcountry arriving by car could completely avoid the congested streets of Mombasa and head straight for the south coast – if at least this and past governments would have kept the road from Kwale which joins the Nairobi to Mombasa highway in good shape. It just goes to show they are all about making election promises and not delivering. The coast has been neglected for too long. A bypass highway would not just support tourism but generally bring economic change to Ukunda, Kwale, Diani, and further on. It would help real estate developments and trade and allow for agricultural products to reach the consumer markets in Nairobi much faster,” lamented a regular coast-based source.
The news about the new ferries comes hot on the heels of another astonishing development when the Kenya Ferry Services announced yesterday that they entered into a concession agreement to have a cable car service launched across the Likoni channel and issued the following media statement:
“Kenya Ferry Service is in the process of setting up an express cable car service at Likoni crossing that will link the Mombasa Island and the mainland, Kenya Ferry Managing Director Musa Hassan Musa has said.
Speaking at stakeholders meeting in Mombasa last week which signed off the project, Mr. Musa said the Likoni Cable Car project will help in reducing logjams and at the same time boost tourism in the south coast by providing a complimentary pedestrian crossing for Likoni Channel and help address problems of delays.
“With a capacity of 11,000 commuters per hour in both directions, tourists to and from South Coast will no longer be delayed. The infrastructure is also a tourist attraction in itself and offers panoramic views of the entire Mombasa region from 100 metres,” quipped Mr. Musa.
The project is sponsored by Trapos Limited who has contracted Doppelmayr, a Swiss/Austrian specialist company that manufactures chairlifts, cable cars, gondolas, surface tows for ski and amusement parks as well as urban transport systems, to provide project technology; and CFC Stanbic Bank to arrange for project funding. The project is estimated to cost Ksh3.6 billion (USD41 million).
Trapos Limited is expected to conclude a 30 year concession agreement between Likoni Cable Express and contracting authority, Kenya Ferry Services.
It is expected that Trapos Limited would by September 2015 begin the construction of towers, stations and connecting network cables along the route. The project, which will be the pilot and key contributor to the larger Mombasa Integrated Mass Transit Plan, is expected to be fully completed and commissioned by December 2016.
“When the project is commissioned, travel time between the Island and the mainland that takes about 10 minutes, will take less than 3 minutes; a massive improvement for the people that are commuting between the two points,” he said.
Improved mass transport system
“But even more importantly, the Cable Car system to be built will revolutionize the mass transport system in Mombasa,” Musa said. “By late 2016, we should see the first cable cars running concurrently with the ferries, making for a systematic double of coordinated transport infrastructure. These combined grids will ease transportation logjams that somehow impede economic progress in the South Coast.””
Pedestrians currently use the ferry service for free, one of the reasons the company’s CEO has been complaining to government and the public at large that Kenya Ferry is making losses, and it is expected that the cable car service, if at all it does materialize – the first of April surely is long gone – will charge a fee for users to pay back loans and meet overhead costs.