Government has resolved that no commuter omnibus will be allowed on the roads come 2016, and will soon institute measures to stop importation of such vehicles.
The Sunday Mail understands some private players have already been commissioned to run high-volume buses that will replace the omnibuses.
Engineers are also surveying major roads in Harare’s central business district with a view to constructing a ring-road that will detour heavy vehicles from the CBD.
The two approaches – which both feed into the National Transport Policy – are among Government’s priorities in decongesting urban centres and modernising mass transportation.
Transport, Communications and Infrastructure Development Minister Obert Mpofu told The Sunday Mail that his ministry would assemble a committee to enforce the ban on omnibus imports.
He said the same committe would regulate public transport vehicles already on the roads until they are phased out.
“We are working with the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing. In fact, it is top of our agenda. We are working to have them (omnibuses) phased out within the stipulated timeframe. Other major stakeholders are also seized with this issue and the process is now at an advanced stage.
“I want to state that we are committed to decongesting the city. Our stakeholders are working towards a more sustainable transport system in urban centres. We are also consulting as well as surveying all roads in the city so that we begin constructing the ring road.”
The Sunday Mail has gathered that some private players who were running a pilot run with high-volume vehicles dubbed “metro buses” had been cleared to import more such transporters to replace omnibuses.
The “metro buses” will ply major routes and will be operated by a limited number of companies.
It could not be immediately established how many such buses have already been imported.
Analysts supported the proposed system, while advocating additional measures such as urban tollgates, by-pass roads and modern traffic control regulations.
Mr Atkinson Munemo – a transport and logistics expert with Whelson Transport in Harare – said: “We cannot have one solution. There is need to enforce a total ban on commuter omnibuses from the CBD seeing that they are the main reason behind the chaos.
“The authorities should also consider additional measures such as park and ride facilities. This is basically a parking lot where motorists park their vehicles outside the CBD before taking a shuttle bus into the CBD to their respective destinations. In addition, by-pass roads should be constructed to detour traffic from the city centre.”
Mass transport expert Mr Pride Muyambo weighed in saying: “The solution also lies in taxing road users. This will have the double effect of discouraging unnecessary use of urban roads while it is also a source of revenue. Other countries have used the system effectively and I do not see why Zimbabwe should not follow suit.”
Commuter omnibuses were introduced in the 1990s to complement the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco) which was facing viability problems.
However, regulating their operations has been a nightmare for the authorities as numbers swelled while at the same time Zupco’s fortunes waned.
According to Harare’s urban planning report of 2012, over 4 550 individuals were registered as commuter omnibuses owners.
The National Transport Policy states that the design of most roads in urban areas does not conform to the rapid increase in traffic volumes.
Other road-related problems — the policy adds — include inadequate parking space, lack of maintenance and room for future expansion, vandalised or lack of proper shelters and lighting at bus stops and termini.
It proposes by-passes, ring roads and truck inns in major urban areas to cater for through traffic as an alternative to radial roads that start from the CBD.
The policy promotes “the use of high capacity transport modes such as trains/articulated buses which economically and efficiently use road space and gradually phasing out capacity less than 26 seats”.
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