TRANSPORT operators plying rural routes have increased fares to capitalise on an increase in the number of people travelling to their homes to spend Christmas with their families.
A snap survey by The Chronicle yesterday revealed that buses plying the Bulawayo-Nkayi route are now charging $80 for a single trip from $60 while those using kombis have to part with at least $120 from $100 for the same distance.
Kombis plying the Bulawayo-Tsholotsho route charge $70. Previously they charged $50. Buses are charging $100 for a trip from Bulawayo to Lupane while those travelling to Binga will have to fork out $200 from $150 for a single trip.
A trip to Halisupe in Gwanda district and Maphisa in Matobo district now costs $100 from $80.
Some transport operators who spoke to The Chronicle attributed the hike to an acute shortage of diesel at service stations which is forcing them to resort to the informal traders who are charging exorbitant prices.
At filling stations, diesel is going for $18,89 a litre while on the black market the commodity is sold for US$2 per litre (about $32 using the interbank rate).
"Usually during this time of the year, we increase fares due to demand, but in this case, the push factor is a shortage of diesel, which we are now sourcing from the black market at an exorbitant price. Unfortunately, we are then left with no other option but to pass the buck to our passengers," said Mr Benson Gumede, a driver of a Nkayi-bound bus.
Mr Luckmore Ndlovu, a kombi driver who plies the Bulawayo-Brunapeg route, said they were charging $150 from the previous $100.
When a Chronicle news crew visited Renkini Bus Terminus and Entumbane Country Bus Terminus yesterday, there was a hive of activity as scores of travellers jostled to catch buses to their rural homes ahead of the Christmas holiday.
However, bus conductors and kombi drivers said this year the number of travellers was down compared to the previous year during the same period.
"We normally handle a huge influx of travellers during this time of the year as people will be travelling home for Christmas. However, this time the numbers have gone down and this could be attributed to the prevailing economic challenges," said Mr Lazarus Ndebele who plies the Bulawayo-Maphisa route.
Mr Lungile Mlotshwa, a vendor who operates at Renkini Bus Terminus concurred with Mr Gumede.
"I have been operating in this place for the past five years and usually it becomes busy during this time as most people will be travelling to their rural homes for Christmas. This year, it is less busy and my business has been adversely affected due to the decline in the number of travellers," he said.
The Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe (TSCZ) has deployed 20 teams nationwide that are conducting periodic road safety awareness campaigns to reduce carnage on the roads during the festive season. The awareness campaigns started on December 16 and will run to January 3, 2020.
Police are also urging motorists to observe road regulations when driving and have mounted roadblocks on most roads to check whether or not vehicles are roadworthy and stamp out speeding and other road offences.