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Nairobi’s heavy traffic responsible for many missed flights

Every day, travellers heading to the two airports in Nairobi miss their flights owing to heavy traffic on most of the city’s streets.

Weaving through vehicular jam  to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport or Wilson Airport, especially during rush hours, is getting harder and harder day by day.

“Sometimes, operators of charter companies ask me if there is a way I can get them an aircraft for picking their passengers stuck in traffic to stop keeping other travellers waiting,” said  Mr Gad Kamau, the chairman of the Wilson Airport Aircraft Operators.

The operators, he explained, have been advising passengers to stop underestimating traffic congestion in the city, but many travellers fail to heed the advice and thus miss their flights.

“People are missing flights as the pilot cannot keep waiting for a passenger stuck in traffic jam,” Mr Kamau, who is also a pilot, said in a telephone interview.

Most of the passengers have to navigate their way through the ever congested Uhuru Highway or Mbagathi Road to join Lang’ata Road and enter Wilson Airport, from the city centre.

For those going to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport from the city centre, the main route is Mombasa Road, which alongside Uhuru Highway are the passage ways for heavy vehicles travelling from  Mombasa to western Kenya and landlocked East African countries.

This is one of the busiest arteries in the city, which the Nairobi County government targets in its grand plan to decongest the capital.

DECONGESTING TRAFFIC

In the plan, which City Hall is implementing jointly with the National  Government, at least five roundabouts on the highway extending to Waiyaki Way will be demolished and replaced with signalised intersections.

The project, which Nairobi County Transport executive Mohammed Abdullahi says is a short-term intervention to decongest traffic, will cost City Hall nearly Sh400 million.

“There is a big problem on Uhuru Highway, especially between Kenyatta Avenue and Haile Selassie roundabouts.

“In this short distance, we sometimes spend almost two hours as the traffic flow is controlled by police, but other areas on the same avenue are better,” said Mr Sam Maina, a tour driver.

Nairobi traffic police boss Edward Mwamburi said his officers are not to blame for the snarl-up on the highways.

“What police officers do is to salvage a bad situation where traffic lights have stopped working,” he said.

Mr Kamau, the aircraft operators’ official, said the issue of traffic gridlock in Nairobi was raised at a stakeholders’ meeting held in the city five years ago.

“We had proposed that a dedicated lane be constructed from the town centre to Wilson and Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

“This was to be implemented by the defunct City Council of Nairobi but it is like the project never took off,” Mr Kamau said.