Government has opened the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco) franchise to commuter omnibus operators in a move likely to increase convenience for urban commuters.
Officials from Zupco and a few transport operators yesterday penned a deal which will see the implementation of a pilot operation.
The new deal comes as the transport utility is being revived by the Government as part of measures to build a safe and reliable transport system in the country.
Speaking after commissioning a second batch of 47 Zupco buses recently, President Mnangagwa said Government was working tirelessly to fulfil its promise of bringing in 1 500 buses by end of the programme.
By late afternoon yesterday, kombis with Zupco stickers were ferrying passengers at popular ranks in Harare’s central business district at a cost of $2.
On average, kombis charge $4.
Zupco acting chief executive officer Mr Evaristo Madangwa confirmed the development to The Herald, saying the move was inspired by the plight of commuters.
“People were struggling to move from one point to the other and we decided to cast our net wider, this time including kombis in our system.
“We will be slowly growing our capacity as time moves. If people see a kombi with a ZUPCO sticker, they should pay the same amount they would have paid on a bus,” Mr Madangwa said.
Asked on the sustainability of the project, Mr Madangwa said: “In January when we introduced buses people said it is not sustainable but here we are.
“We have a working model and we will continue to improve it to ensure people have transport all the time.”
Under the deal, day-to-day running of the vehicles will be handled by ZUPCO.
The public transporter will determine route-mapping, times and provide a conductor.
Operators will be paid a mutually agreed rate fortnightly.
One of the pioneering operators, Mr Hardlife Chipika of Pamushana Africa Transport, said the deal was a shot in the arm for kombi operators who were struggling to cope with high operational costs.
“The coming in of Government will result in us reducing our operational expenses as fuel will be provided.
“The model to me will reduce wear and tear given that the kombis will be timetabled and no running ‘diff’ (empty trips) as was the case and other operational expenses like paying touts as well as running battles with municipal police,” said Mr Chipika.
Touts demand money from kombi operators in order for them to load passengers at ranks. Kombi crews that refuse to pay the money are forced to offload passengers and banned from loading at that rank, paving way for those who comply with the demands.
Zupco’s latest deal comes at a time when profiteering kombi operators were incessantly increasing fares, putting commuters under financial pressure.
As a result, buses were being overwhelmed and the kombis can fill the gap and bring respite to commuters who are spending long hours waiting for affordable transport.