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Prof Washington Ochieng: The Kenyan brain involved in transforming London transport system

December 5, 2018
Collins Ogutu
for Chams Media Digital

NAIROBI, (KENYA)- The decision by Nairobi County governor Mike Sonko to kick out of the city public transport vehicles caused an overwhelming uproar that saw it revoked 12 hours after its unprecedented implementation.

It was a decision that saw many city dwellers walk for long distances to and from their places of work with some of them accusing the governor of being inconsiderate.

"It was made in a rush," someone argued while others said the County government should have provided an alternative transport system in and out of the central business district before banning matatus.

While suspending the decision, governor Mike Sonko apologized to Nairobi residents saying the intention was not to cause pain but decongest the city and also keep Nairobians fit.

There has been a lot of talks about how to decongest Nairobi's central business district for a while now, a step that requires expertise, wider consultations and public participation.

While this is happening, there is a Kenyan scholar who has helped transform the transport system in London, United Kingdom. Prof Washington Ochieng from the Centre for Transport Studies at the Imperial College in London is the brain behind the revered transport system in London and some across Europe. He was featured in Chams Media's The Chamwada Report show in 2016.

In an interview with Alex Chamwada then, Prof Ochieng termed Nairobi's  transport  system 'clumsy.'

"When I go to Nairobi, it (transport system) is like free for all. Things appear to be chaotic," he said.

However, he believes the situation can be salvaged with expertise and lessons learned from other countries including the UK.

"What needs to be done is to produce a strategic longterm transport masterplan. But you need to put the initial house (current situation) in order first."

"And that masterplan must include all policymakers, stakeholders and the public," he said.

Prof Ochieng, who is originally a civil engineer with a surveying background, however, said it is not as easy. From his past experience in developing the European navigation system and London congestion charter, a lot of factors must be considered. And Nairobi's makes things even more difficult.

"I was instrumental in creating the first ever European space navigation system. I am also involved in transforming London."

"To do these you really have to understand the culture of the city itself. Then there is the question of capacity and capability of a nation to do that."

Prof Ochieng also said that issues like corruption and the type of governance also play a role in aid of proper transport structure in a city.

"Good governance is also an issue- that significant investment must go the exact amount."

Watch the full interview in the video attached.

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