Places, The People

Kensilver: The Meru Transport Icon


“Ita ugiiite risitie e Kensilver.”

For a long time, the only transportation I knew was available between Nairobi and Meru was Kensilver Express. In Maua, long before I came to the big city, I only knew of Kensilver and anyone that ever traveled to Nairobi used Kensilver. Roll back your memories… was it not the same for you? Or do you remember any other? Go on, we will wait.

Kensilver is one of the most known Meru brands. If you see a Kensilver anywhere, you see Meru.

Many bus companies have tried to ply the impossible route but they all give up after a short time and start plying Nairobi routes. They say the terrain is too difficult and eats up their vehicles. On the other hand, the smaller vehicles, “shuttles” are out of reach for many people. So, Kensilver trudges on.

And it’s a good, disciplined fleet. I have rode it many times and never once did I go through the agony I get in shuttles sometimes (excess passengers ‘wanashuka hapa mbele tu’, a thousand and two stops, foul mouthed drivers…name it). With inspectors randomly boarding the vehicles to check, no one would dare misbehave. They have the courtesy of air stewards. Almost.

So, how did it come to be? Kensilver is a family business that was founded in 1987. When the father died he had two sons to whom he left two buses each. Like the old classic stories, one of the sons worked on his inheritance and it’s what we see nowadays: a huge growing fleet of over 30 buses that employs over 100 people in 3 offices in Maua, Meru and Nairobi including drivers and mechanics. Each station has an auto garage and a yard.

Did I mention discipline? I am a poor timekeeper and I have been left 3 times by Kensilver, playing catch up every time. The buses leave at intervals of 45 minutes from 7:00 am to 3:15 pm. The 45 minute interval is standard. Whether a bus is full or not it will still leave.

The other schedule is for buses to leave at 9:00pm depending on demand. You should see how they move in tandem at night, like a pack of lions, willing each other and protecting each other from the enemies of the night. Before a bus leaves a mechanic checks whether that everything is working well. In case a bus breaks down in the middle of the journey there’s always a standby bus and a mechanic who drives it and takes the broken down bus for repair.
It’s like an airline.

What has kept Kensilver in business for so long? An executive at the Meru office tells us:

Meru clients are very loyal if you treat them well and cater to their needs that’s explains why we have been in business this long.

Even in peak times Kensilver don’t hike their fares by more than Ksh 100. That’s why the Kensilver office in Nairobi looks like a crusade in December. Sometimes to get a place, you have to prove you are a customer by producing a few receipts from previous trips. Kensilver doesn’t have a booking schedule now unlike in the past, so you have to be there to board if there is space.  If there is space in the bus you can board.

I am looking forward to the day Kensilver somehow introduces those classy buses that go to Mombasa… I will be travelling home every weekend. Right now, you need patience to travel by Kensilver. Or a book. Or enough data to read all the Ameru blog articles and my personal blog.

Safiri salama.

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