Nairobi traffic lights installed at Ksh.1.4B yet to work


Traffic lights in Nairobi
Traffic lights in Nairobi

In Summary

  • A recent study by the World Bank ranked Nairobi as the 6th city with the worst traffic in the world.
  • In a bid to ease traffic congestion, the government a while back announced the introduction of an intelligent transport system at a cost of Ksh.1.4 billion.
  • The system was to incorporate smart traffic lights, critical in the smooth flow of vehicles on major city roads and benchmarked on traffic flow in the United Kingdom.

In Nairobi, getting stuck in traffic for hours is now common practice. Be it early in the morning, during the day or even at night, burning more fuel at extremely slow speeds is the order of the day.

Despite numerous attempts to address the menace, the country’s capital continues to chock from the never ending gridlock and worse still, billions of shillings worth of tax payers money is being washed down the drain through traffic light projects that has never worked.

A recent study by the World Bank ranked Nairobi as the 6th city with the worst traffic in the world.

In July last year, Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko unveiled his election manifesto which was anchored on seven pledges one of them solving the transport and traffic challenges in City.

In a bid to ease traffic congestion, the government a while back announced the introduction of an intelligent transport system at a cost of Ksh.1.4 billion.

The system was to incorporate smart traffic lights, critical in the smooth flow of vehicles on major city roads and benchmarked on traffic flow in the United Kingdom.

The modern lights would come in handy with cameras, microchips and speakers to monitor and control vehicles without the assistance of traffic police and marshals.

Under the plan, cameras at road junctions were to capture oncoming traffic through digital number plates embedded with microchips and feed the same into an integrated traffic management centre in real time.

The multibillion shilling project targeted 400 intersections within Nairobi but priority was given to 100 of them. By early this year the system was to go live on Ngong Road, Kileleshwa, Yaya centre and Riverside Drive intersections.

And shortly thereafter junctions in industrial area and parklands would follow.

However, months down the line, the traffic situation appears the same if not worse.

A spot check by Citizen TV reveals functioning lights along Ngong Road and specifically at the city mortuary roundabout and the Prestige Plaza junction.

The lights according to a section of motorists function well during the day but at night they deactivate or get deactivated.

Despite thousands of man hours still being lost on the gridlocked road motorists prefer the lights to traffic police officers.

A drive down to Kileleshwa reveals a road network decorated with spanking new traffic lights – no doubt a good treat to the eye but the sad reality is that these active lights are not functional.

And ever since their installation, traffic continues to be monitored and controlled by police officers

The only thing left of the over a billion shilling infrastructure is the ever irritating beeping sound.

Efforts to get a comment from all the relevant authorities and implementing agencies including the Kenya Urban Roads Authority, NTSA and the county government proved futile.

This situation now has many people asking whether the intelligent transport system was really intended to control traffic or was it just another money minting scheme from the public coffers.

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Story By Patrick Igunza
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