Debra Matabvu, Harare Bureau
GOVERNMENT is moving with speed to comprehensively address challenges in urban transportation through procuring hundreds of large volume buses, with the country set to take delivery of a consignment of 50 new buses next week.
The new buses, which are in transit from the port of Durban, South Africa, are expected to arrive in Beitbridge soon. Fifteen of the buses will be immediately deployed to service routes in Harare while 11 will be dispatched to Bulawayo, with the rest being shared equally among the smaller cities and towns. A plan to alleviate public transport challenges in the short term that involves the procurement of 667 more buses by year end, has also been approved with authorities now finalising the necessary arrangements.
In the long term, Government will purchase 1 500 buses to augment the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company’s current fleet, which has struggled to meet demand. Local Government and Public Works Minister July Moyo told our Harare Bureau that a mass transport masterplan was also in the works.
“We are going to receive 50 buses this coming week. We are not sure of the exact date they will be in the country but they are already in Durban and we have dispatched our drivers to get them at Beitbridge border post. We are also coming up with a transport masterplan which will be implemented very soon.”
Local Government secretary Mr Zvinechimwe Churu said Government had drawn up several short and long term measures to help alleviate public transport challenges.
“The Government is set to take delivery of 50 buses by mid-September 2021 and the buses are from China. Government short term plans to alleviate transport challenges include stepping up the procurement of buses for Zupco operations with an estimated 667 buses set to be delivered by year end.
“We also constituted a multi-stakeholder national and local level technical committee to implement a raft of measures approved by Cabinet to decongest traffic in major urban areas, thereby reducing the turnaround time of bus operations. In addition, the Government is carrying out surveys and assessments for rescheduling and prioritising bus deployment in favour of high demand routes and pressure points as well as stepping up the engagement of private operators to register with Zupco.”
Mr Churu said plans to procure 1 500 buses for the urban mass transport system as part of long term plans were also in place. Zupco requires 2 000 buses to run an efficient mass transport system. Currently, the transport utility owns 262 buses, while the rest are operated through its franchise system.
“Government has long term plans to capacitate Zupco mainly by procuring at least 1 500 buses for the urban mass transport system and integrate Zupco operations with other modes of transport such as light rail as well to ensure supportive transport infrastructure (including smart transport systems) is developed in partnership with local authorities and private investors,” Mr Churu added.
Zupco chief executive, Mr Evaristo Madangwa, said Harare and Bulawayo will receive the largest share of buses from the latest consignment. He also called on transporters who are yet to join the Zupco franchise to do so.
“Obviously, the urban cities will receive the largest share with Harare set to receive 15 buses while Bulawayo will receive 11. Other cities such as Gweru will receive four or five buses. We are also inviting all urban transport operators to join the Zupco franchise.
“Those who have not registered should approach their nearest Zupco office where they will get assistance. We never stopped registering urban transport operators. Those who wish to do so should contact our offices so that they continue to operate as prescribed by the law.”
According to Government’s medium term economic plan, the National Development Strategy 1, the public transport in cities must have a single operational controller in order to be effective. Government’s intervention through Zupco is geared to provide subsidised transport as a means to insulate commuters from extortionate fares charged by private transport operators.