The Sunday Mail
Government has approved an upward review of hire fees for commuter omnibuses contracted under the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco) franchise, in a move expected to immediately ease transport challenges.
The Ministry of Finance and Economic Development last week doubled hire fees for kombis from $10 000 to $20 300 to motivate private players to join the franchise.
Negotiations for a review of hire fees for privately-owned high-volume buses are ongoing and will likely be completed this week.
Privately-owned commuter omnibuses recently withdrew from the franchise citing low hire fees and a growing payment backlog.
In response to the transport challenges, which are largely affecting Harare commuters, Government has drawn up a cocktail of interim measures that are set to immediately ease problems affecting the capital’s mass public transport system.
It almost emerged yesterday that Government would soon be liberalising the public transport system to complement services being provided by Zupco.
The measures include a review of the Zupco hire fees, reintroduction of express bus lanes, procuring new buses for the public transporter this month and introducing an afternoon commuter train service.
This year alone, Government will buy over 500 buses for Zupco.
In addition, plans are underway to use data from the recently concluded housing and population census to inform the deployment of coaches.
The full census report will be released in the next three months.
In an interview, Local Government and Public Works Minister July Moyo said major transit routes being constructed under the Emergency Road Rehabilitation Programme (ERRP) will now have dedicated bus lanes.
“Last week’s transport challenges were mainly caused by the pulling out of commuter omnibuses under the Zupco franchise,” said Minister Moyo.
“We have engaged Treasury and they have approved the upward review of the daily hire fees given to the kombis.
“So we expect the situation to normalise.
“We have also started engaging all stakeholders, including the Ministry of Transport (and Infrastructural Development) and local authorities on the issue of dedicated bus lanes and streamlining roads to ensure the amount of time in transit by buses is lessened.
“Some of the work, which is set to bring sanity on our roads, is being done under the Emergency Road Rehabilitation Programme. We are also expecting an additional consignment of buses at the end of this month, which is expected to alleviate transport challenges in cities, while some of the buses will be sent to rural areas.
“So we have started implementing a number of strategies such as construction of infrastructure and acquiring more buses.”
Announcing measures to prop up the economy and address the transport challenges yesterday, President Mnangagwa said regulations announcing the liberalisation of the transport sector will be announced soon.
“Government is proceeding to open up the public transport system for other players in order to complement the services being provided by Zupco, in line with the reduction in Covid-19 cases and the subsequent opening up of the economy,” said the President.
“To complement the above measures, Government will allow for the duty-free importation for a period of 12 months for vehicles which meet regulations to be issued.
“The liberalisation of the public transport system shall be done under terms and conditions to be published by Government.
“The police would need to ensure that law and order is adhered to as the behaviour on our roads needs to be seriously attended to.
“Non-adherence to the rules and regulations to be gazetted would not be tolerated.”
Zupco acting chief executive officer Mr Evaristo Madangwa said close to 500 buses have been deployed onto Harare’s roads.
“We are gradually building capacity by using both road and rail services,” Mr Madangwa said.
“Soon we are going to introduce an afternoon run for our train services.
“The census result soon to come out will also guide the current levels of population by place.
“This will also aid in correctly aligning our transport services across the nation.
“In the meantime, Government is doing all in its power to assist us in procuring more buses so that we can be able to service the public.
“More than 500 will be delivered before end of the year.”
The new buses, he added, will be deployed to areas with high-population volumes.
Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development deputy director Engineer Tatenda Pasipamire said while Harare already has dedicated bus lanes, there was no enforcement of the standing regulations.
“There are dedicated bus lanes on Seke and Robert Mugabe roads and these have been there for some time now,” he said.
“However, the lanes were not being used because there were kombis.
“Now that we have buses, they can be used if the authorities such as the City of Harare enforce the use of these bus lanes.”
He said the current ERRP has budgeted for the construction of express lanes.
Government has also drawn up medium- to long-term measures to improve public transportation and decongest traffic in Harare.
Authorities are rolling out a three-pronged approach, which includes infrastructure development, enhancement of public transport logistics and enforcement of traffic laws.
Overall, the interventions are part of Harare’s public transport masterplan.
It will first be implemented as a pilot project in Harare before being replicated in other cities.
Under infrastructure cluster, Highfield, Glen Eagles, Lyton- Kambuzuma-Mufakose, Chiremba, Alpes and Harare Drive-Kirkman will be widened under the ERRP, while filter lanes will be constructed on the Harare Drive-Kirkman, Bulawayo-Kirkman, High Glen-Heany roads.
Government will also modify and add filter lanes at Kuwadzana and Warren Park roundabouts along Bulawayo Road, Westgate roundabout along Lomagundi Road and Amalinda Road to decongest traffic, especially during peak hours.
New traffic lights will be installed at 17 junctions across the city.
Bus termini renovations will be undertaken, with Copacabana set to be a pilot study.
Crafting of a by-law to govern dedicated bus lanes is currently underway.
Some of the roads set to be used as bus lanes include Jason Moyo-Gamal Nasser Road (former Rotten Row), Samora Machel-Marimba roads, Prince Edward Road and Robert Mugabe-Cameroon to Copacabana.
Additional designated pickup points will be introduced at places such as Fly Over (Seke Road), Park Street-Nelson Mandela, Charter (Jarzin) and Leopold Takawira (Girls High).
As part of enforcement measures, City of Harare municipal police will partner with ZRP to help enforce traffic by-laws.
Deployment of police officers in and around the CBD will be increased to deter illegal pirate taxis.