More buses, new train coaches coming to Zimbabwe

HARARE – More than 288 new buses will be delivered next month, while an additional 279 are expected before year-end to boost Zupco’s capacity to provide an efficient and reliable mass public transport system, it has been learnt.

This will add to the 50 buses commissioned last week and 100 others that are on the “high seas”.

As part of measures to establish an integrated mass public transport system, US$71 million will be sunk into procuring 10 new locomotives and 100 coaches to be operated under a joint venture between Zupco and the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) on urban commuting routes in Harare and Bulawayo.

The Ministry of Local Government and Public Works will also soon commission a study into the feasibility of introducing a light rail system in the country’s two biggest cities.

In the interim, Government is considering increasing Zupco’s bus-hiring fees to US$275 per day to attract more private transporters to join the franchise system, including hiking fares by 50 percent to reduce the subsidy from Government.

Overall, Government’s multi-pronged plan to modernise urban mass transportation in the country involves addressing transport infrastructure gaps, enhancing public transport logistics and improving enforcement of traffic laws and regulations.

A high-level technical team that was set up to develop a plan to overhaul the urban mass transport system has also proposed that Government considers introducing urban tolling in Harare as a way of decongesting the capital.

“The technical team recommend that: Government facilitates the refurbishment of five locomotives and 48 coaches at a cost of US$2,5 million and US$725 000, respectively, to ensure urban rail transport reliability,” reads part of the technical team’s report.

“Ten new locomotives and 100 coaches (diesel multiple units) be procured to replace the old NRZ rolling stock that is being used on the three routes in Harare and two routes in Bulawayo, which is expensive to maintain.

“It is proposed that these new coaches be operated as a joint venture between Zupco and NRZ.

“Government speeds up the procurement of the remaining 617 buses by the end of the year 2021.

“The hire fees of buses be reviewed upwards following the operators’ requests guided by the initial agreement which pegged the hire rate at US$275 per day and paid in Zimbabwe dollars at the equivalent auction rate.”

Part of the mulled measures include staggering working hours to spread demand for public transport and alleviate peak-hour demand.

A report recently tabled in Cabinet by Local Government and Public Works Minister July Moyo titled “Strategies and measures for the elimination of traffic congestion and the provision of street lighting in the country’s urban areas: Learning from the Harare Metropolitan Province” outlines in detail strategies Government plans to deploy to deal with transport challenges.

It is believed that proposals contained in the report will be piloted in Harare and later replicated in other cities.

“Elements of the ongoing Emergency Road Rehabilitation Programme (ERRP) are a major part of the interventions and programmes that have been initiated. The interventions and projects are broadly categorised under the following areas: infrastructure; enhanced public transport logistics (Systems) and enforcement,” reads the report in part.

It adds: “288 buses are expected to be delivered by end of 31st October 2021, while the balance of 279 buses to be delivered by 31 December 2021.

“Government will avail 61 more buses through the franchise system (for morning and evening peak).”

This year, Government has already taken delivery of 262 buses.

President Mnangagwa commissioned a fleet of 50 new buses procured from China last week.

To address infrastructure gaps, major city routes such as Highfield, Glen Eagles, Lyton-Kambuzuma-Mufakose, Chiremba, Alpes and Harare Drive-Kirkman will be widened under the ERRP.

Filter lanes will also be constructed on the Harare Drive- Solomon Mujuru Drive (former Kirkman), Bulawayo-Solomon Mujuru Drive, 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, while Nelson Mandela Avenue will be converted into one-way lane.

Already, major city bus termini are being renovated and will be fitted with closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras.

Further, the city will introduce dedicated bus lanes to cut time spent on the roads.

A by-law to restrict the lanes to buses is already being crafted.

Some of the roads that are set to have dedicated bus lanes include Jason Moyo-Abdel Gamal Nassar Road (former Rotten Row), Samora Machel-Marimba roads, Prince Edward Road and Robert Mugabe-Cameron to Copacabana.

Additional designated pick-up points will be introduced at places such as the flyover along Seke Road, Jomo Kenyatta Lane (former Park Lane) /Nelson Mandela, Fidel Castro Road (former Charter Road) and Leopold Takawira (Girls High).

Harare municipal police will be partnering police to enforce traffic by-laws.

Deployment of police officers in and around the central business district will be increased to deter illegal pirate taxis.

“With the increased presence of the police at intersections, roundabouts and trunk routes, there is a marked increase in discipline and compliance with traffic regulations by road users,” Minister Moyo added. – Sunday Mail

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