The City of Harare (CoH) and A1 Metro Bus Service will soon unveil a conventional bus system after a successful trial run earlier this year.
From January to March of 2015, CoH and its business partner A1 undertook a pilot project to test the system. Plying the Mabvuku-Town route, the demonstration bus – which was specially designed for high passenger capacity – went through various road and mechanical tests. The trial also experimented with an electronic ticketing system, a pricing model to test the market, and scheduling processes.
CoH spokesperson Michael Chideme said the trial run yielded excellent results, and though he could not yet reveal a time frame, promised that it would take off upon identification of the right partners, and negotiations are underway to resolve this matter. “It was so successful that we are now confident that Harare needs to re-introduce a conventional bus system,” said Chideme.
Harare has been struggling to find a cheaper and more efficient commuting system to replace the unmanageable kombis that are often blamed for congestion and dangerous driving across the city. The conventional bus project is being hailed by many as a welcome move towards efficiency and safety on Harare’s roads.
Simon Gore of Mabvuku, who used the trial bus, said that the return of conventional buses to city roads would be welcomed. “We used to travel on ZUPCO buses and all this current traffic madness was un-heard of. I hope the return of buses will bring back the good old days,” he said.
Tafadzwa Golliati, a co-ordinator with the Passengers Association of Zimbabwe (PAZ), says the idea is great because the system will give people the freedom of choice and lower prices. “The buses would mean better services to commuters. As players compete, those unable to adapt will automatically be phased out,” he said.
In contrast, Lovemore Chiutawo, a commuter omnibus driver who plies the City-Waterfalls route, says replacing the 15-seater kombi with high-capacity buses is not the solution. He said council should try to decongest the city by constructing more holding bays for kombis. “This will save jobs in times when people are being laid-off. Apart from that, the envisaged plan has the potential to create a monopoly, which would disadvantage commuters,” he said.
Others have cast doubt on council’s ability to pull off this grand plan. A Chitungwiza resident pointed out a previous failing. “Two years ago, the city introduced a metro bus servicing the City-Chitungwiza route, but this bus is nowhere to be seen,” he said. The unidentified commuter added that the problem with the Mabvuku trial run was that it assessed only one route and was also doomed to failure.
This move by the City is in line with a national agenda to phase out kombis for high-capacity buses across the country. The Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development recently unveiled a National Transport Policy that proposes the introduction of high-volume buses, operated by a limited number of private players. This new measure has stirred up heated debate between operators, government, and the general commuting public.
In 2014, the city’s Department of Urban Planning produced a report that cited that over 4,550 individuals had been registered as commuter omnibus owners in the capital. This new high-capacity transit system will undoubtedly affect their business and lead to massive job losses and discontent in the sector.
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