Joy as Likoni residents start using floating bridge - Beaking Kenya News

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Saturday, 2 January 2021

Joy as Likoni residents start using floating bridge


Likoni residents on Friday started using the Liwatoni pedestrian floating bridge after days of trials.

Most residents expressed their happiness, saying the bridge, which cost Sh1.9 billion, has made things easier for them. They however lamented the lack of a shed.

“Now our children will get to school earlier and we will also get to our workplaces in time without having to wake up at least an hour earlier than we are supposed to,” Mwachiponi Omar, a Mtongwe resident, said.

Mwachiponi said he used eight minutes to cross from the Likoni mainland to Mombasa Island.

“At the Likoni ferry, I would have taken even two hours,” he said.

Reuben Mutua, a hawker who lives about 50 metres from where the bridge ends on the Likoni mainland, said he used less than seven minutes to get to Mombasa Island.

Usually, he would take at least 45 minutes using the ferry at the Likoni crossing channel.

Mutua differed with residents who called for the construction of a shed on the bridge, saying it may not be practical.

“We have used the Nyali bridge for over 30 years and it has never had a shed. I don’t know why people are asking for a shed for this one,” Mutua said.

However, the Nyali bridge is half the length of the Liwatoni pedestrian floating bridge.

The Nyali bridge is about 440 metres long while the Liwatoni floating bridge is about 840 metres long. The floating bridge is about six metres wide.

There is a barrier at the centre to separate those moving in opposite directions.

The residents said the Liwatoni bridge will eliminate the ‘harassment’ experienced at the Likoni ferry crossing channel, where the sentries are at times forced to push commuters.

“There will be no pick pocketing here because people will be constantly moving and we have been told there will be police officer deployed here,” Sarah Nyamvula, a Mtongwe resident, said.

William Ngoge, a Likoni resident, said the decongestion at the Likoni ferry would reduce or eliminate stampedes, which have been witnessed several times because of the ferry mishaps, especially during peak hours.

Ngoge said the bridge will also attract investors to Likoni because of the ease of movement.

“Tourists will be coming here because today I have seen people from far places who have no business in town coming here just to get the feel of the new bridge,” he said.

Constant Matwang’a said business for small-scale traders will improve because of the large crowds using the floating bridge.

“The government should invest in security on this bridge because there will be some boys who will want to take advantage of this place to rob people,” Matwang’a said.

Ziada Salim, a resident of Peleleza area in Likoni, said it has become cheaper for them to get to Mombasa Island.

They used to take boda boda to Likoni ferry, paying Sh70.

“We can now boast of an opening and closing bridge. We only used to see such in photos of Dubai and Qatar,” Salim said.

Coast regional coordinator John Elungata urged residents to use the bridge responsibly.

He said the government, through a special committee that will be managing the bridge, will Monday announce the operating hours.

The bridge will only be used by pedestrians during the day.

At night, the bridge will be left open for ships to pass through.

“Residents should understand that this bridge was built specifically to ease congestion at the Likoni ferry and to help curb the spread of Covid-19,” Elungata said.

He clarified that the Likoni ferry crossing channel will not stop carrying pedestrians as earlier thought.

There had been speculation that the Likoni ferries will be used to transport vehicles only once the floating bridge starts operations.

“It will be one’s choice. If you feel the Likoni ferry works for you, then you will use that, and if you feel the floating bridge will be easier and more convenient for you, well and good,” Elungata said.

The contractor, China Roads and Bridge Corporation will be operating the bridge for the first six months up to June, before handing it over to the Kenya Ports Authority.

“This is the liability period. There will be areas that will still need work. But after six months, they will hand it over to KPA,” Elungata said.

He said by that time, Kenyan engineers will have learnt to operate the bridge, closing and opening it when need be.

“Training is ongoing,” he said.

Captain Andy’s, the company subcontracted by CRBC to oversee the technical aspects of the bridge operation, will have its engineers monitoring the technical working aspects of the bridge.

Elungata said they have established an area where boda boda and tuktuk operators will be picking and dropping off those using the pedestrian bridge on both sides of the channel.

“This means business for the boda bodas and tuk tuks will increase,” Elungata said.

He stressed that the bridge is strictly for pedestrians and only wheelchairs and ambulances, in emergency cases, will be allowed to pass.

However, on the down side, pedestrians will have to wait for about an hour before crossing should there be a ship about to pass.

An operator told the Star once a ship designated to pass through has signalled, the bridge will be opened about 30 minutes before it is scheduled to pass.

“This means by the time the ship passes, there will be about 45-60 minutes that will have passed before the bridge closes again for pedestrian to cross,” one of the operators said.

The bridge will be dismantled in five years’ time once the Mombasa Gate Bridge is complete.

The Mombasa Gate Bridge is a permanent solution to the Likoni crossing channel woes and construction will start early next years and will take about four years to complete.

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