Nearly two years after the City of Harare proposed the construction of holding bays for commuter omnibuses in the city centre, it is still to finish even the first one planned (See ‘Will a new terminal help‘ – September 2012).
Since 2012, holding bays have been touted by council as the solution to decongestion of the city’s ranks, which struggle to accommodate the ballooning number of commuter omnibuses. The first one, planned for Coventry Road, is not close to completion.
The Coventry holding bay is meant to cater for kombis that use the Copacabana bus terminus. Council plans to construct more holding bays for use by kombis using other ranks such as Fourth Street and Charge Office. Council has pointed out that the holding bay system will bring sanity to the roads.
City of Harare corporate affairs manager Leslie Gwindi said that the Coventry holding bay was still to be completed as the City is still mobilising resources.
“Definitely the holding bay will assist in the partial decongestion of the city, but on its own it will not do much. There is need to build more holding bays to cater for traffic from Chitungwiza and the Southern suburbs and for traffic from the East,” said Gwindi.
At present, most ranks in the CBD are failing to accommodate all kombis, leading to some being forced to park in traffic lanes. Most unlicensed kombis are also known to use illegal pick-up points. Questions have been raised on how council’s holding bays will deal with this. Gwindi said that holding bays will not create problems but are something of a solution.
“Commuter operators use undesignated pick up and drop off points because they get public support. The public should desist from assisting the operators to behave illegally,” added Gwindi.
“Clearly, parking space is now a problem at most ranks. Council should complete the holding bays as soon as possible if they are to win the war of decongesting the Central Business District,” said Edward Magara, a commuter operator at Copacabana.
However, there has been debate on the effectiveness of the holding bay system to decongest the city roads. Some commuter drivers such as Simba Gore, who plies the Dzivarasekwa route, pointed out that the holding bays would make no significant change to the problem of congestion in the CBD as the main issue was about compliance.
“The holding bays will not bring any change. There are some unlicensed vehicles that are operating from illegal pick-up points and I wonder what will make them go to the holding bays,” said Gore.
Aaron Tapfuma of the Zimbabwe National Commuter Omnibus Operators Organisation (ZNCOOO) said that his organisation did not have the full details about the holding bay system as they had not been briefed by council.
“From what we are hearing from others, it might be a good idea but the issue is, do we have the capacity to manage the system. If we have the capacity then it is a brilliant idea as it will help in decongesting the City,” said Tapfuma.
Over the past year the Council’s traffic cops have been involved in cat and mouse chases with non-compliant kombis that use undesignated ranks. This has had both negative and positive results. However, it is everyone’s hope that the holding bays will bring some relief.