Residents of Mombasa and its environs had great reason to cheer when the Kenya Ferry Service announced that it will, in the very near future begin the construction of an express cable car service at the Likoni ferry crossing to link Mombasa Island and the southern mainland. It is expected that besides helping in reducing jams, the project will also boost tourism in the South Coast as it will reduce delays at the crossing, from 10 minutes to only 3 minutes.
The cable cars will have a reported capacity of 11,000 commuters per hour in both directions. Currently, the ferries have a capacity of approximately 300,000 commuters and 600 vehicles daily. The faster movement of goods, people and services across the channel will spur economic growth in Mombasa and surrounding counties.
“With the way the ferries have been stalling every now and then in the recent past, the cars will be a great relief for those of us like me who live in Ukunda, and need to get to work in the Mombasa CBD early,” said Tony Wakhungu, a frequent user of the ferry.
Ms Mwenda, a trader at the matatu stage near the ferry thinks the project will offer many employment opportunities.
“They are going to need planners and builders as well as people to run the cars and maintain them. This is a big opportunity for youths from around here to get employed and earn a living. The county government needs to ensure that happens.”
Estimated to cost around $41m (Ksh3.6B) the Trapos Limited-sponsored project will receive project funding from the CFC Stanbic Bank. It will employ technology by Doppelmayr, a Swiss-Austrian specialist company. Doppelmayr is a big name in the manufacture of chairlifts, cable cars, gondolas as well as amusement parks and urban transport systems.
The project, the pilot and key contributor to the Mombasa Integrated Mass Transit Plan, is expected to start by September 2015, to be completed and commissioned by December 2016. This is according to the Managing Director of the Kenya Ferry Services, Musa Hassan, who pointed out that tourists will no longer face delays at the ferry crossing.
“Yes. The cars will reduce the time taken for tourists to move from Mombasa to hotels here in the South Coast.” concurs Timothy Mriya, a manager at a hotel in Diani.
That is not the only way the tourism industry will stand to benefit from the project.
“With the cable cars will running 100 metres above and concurrently with ferries, the infrastructure will be an attraction in itself,” Mr Musa said, “offering panoramic views of the entire Mombasa”.
However, not everyone is impressed with the idea. Mwamidi, a taxi driver who crosses the ferry many times in a week does not trust Kenya Ferry Services (KFS) with the idea.
“They have trouble maintaining a few ferries. Even the new ferries that are less than 5 years old are now constantly broken down. How will they maintain something more complex?”