Blessings Chidakwa Municipal Correspondent
SIXTY-FIVE more buses have been delivered from China to bolster the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco)’s fleet in urban areas and on intercity routes as part of efforts to provide affordable transport.
The buses, manufactured by Golden Dragon Buses, were shipped via Durban, South Africa, and arrived in Harare yesterday morning.
They are parked at the FAW warehouse in Msasa, Harare, awaiting deployment after being commissioned by President Mnangagwa when they are ready for operations.
The resurrection of Zupco has been accompanied by a programme of importing new buses from China and Belarus.
All buses and kombis under the Zupco scheme are subsidised and offer services at significantly lower fares than private independent operators.
The Government has directed Zupco to split its expanding fleet between urban and rural routes, although the design of the latest batch means most will be on urban routes.
Although the Zupco fleet, even with the addition of private buses in the scheme, is far below the required size, many commuters and travellers are prepared to queue and wait for a Zupco-branded bus or kombi.
This has prevented private operators from raising fares willy-nilly.
The provision of affordable transport is seen by the Government as critical in addressing some of the challenges that workers, including civil servants, are facing.
Speaking on the sidelines of yesterday’s post-Cabinet briefing, Local Government and Public Works Minister July Moyo said Zupco buses will transform the country’s transport sector.
“The President is determined to change the nature of transportation in urban areas and as he has promised, we will continue to have new buses and these buses that have come are just one other tranche that is coming.
“We will arrange for the President Mnangagwa to commission the buses as he has done before. The numbers (of the new buses) I haven’t counted yet, but we are expecting 65 and above and I will check if 65 are the ones which have arrived,” he said.
Minister Moyo said urban routes will get more of the buses given their design. He said more buses, with better capacity to navigate rural routes, will be delivered.
China and Belarus were chosen as the suppliers of the new fleet in deals negotiated by President Mnangagwa.
Bus operations are easier and cheaper if the number of types is kept limited.
Greater Harare Association of Commuter Omnibus Operators, secretary general Mr Ngoni Katsvairo on Monday said Government should deploy more buses to eliminate private operators that are exploiting desperate commuters.
“The Zupco programme is a good way of alleviating the plight of commuters, but it needs more operators to be brought in,” he said.