EDITORIAL COMMENT : Zupco should not drop the ball
Last week Number 109 Belvedere Road was a hive of activity as President Mnangagwa commissioned a new batch of buses at the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company headquarters which are expected to add impetus to efforts to address transport challenges in the country.
The gesture has already received kudos from commuters who have been at the mercy of transport operators that are taking advantage of the situation to charge exorbitant fares.
Exorbitant fares charged by the unscrupulous transport operators had made it tough for passengers to travel to and from work on a daily basis resulting in President Mnangagwa’s timeous intervention.
The intervention is now synonymous with the breath of fresh air and new way of doing business that was ushered in by the New Dispensation that have been implementing people-centred policies.
Consistent with his commitment to assist the commuting public and ease transport challenges in the country, President Mnangagwa last week commissioned an additional 47 new buses at ZUPCO depot in Harare.
While we embrace the move which is expected to further expedite the revival of Zupco, we want to hasten to point out that the revival of Zupco should not only be confined to the supply of buses alone.
Our take is that the President and Government’s effort should be complimented by a drastic transformation in the management style at the bus company.
This is not the first time that Government has facilitated the supply of new buses to Zupco. History shows that previous attempts have failed because of the bus company’s failure to effectively manage its affairs.
Zupco is littered with shells of buses that it had either failed to service or manage properly. It is certainly our hope that the new lease of life extended to Zupco will be nurtured and blossom so that Zupco can re-establish itself as the force it was in the past, if not better.
Zupco has been supplied with a cornucopia of buses by Government coupled with subsidised fuel and support from private transport operators who have supplied their buses to operate under the utility’s banner.
This in our view is a very solid base and springboard for Zupco to re-establish itself as a force to reckon with in the transport industry.
This can, however, only happen if Zupco embrace world trends in terms of managing its fleet so that it effectively plays its role in the economy.
Globally public transport is witnessing transformational changes and Zimbabwe should not be an exception.
The powers that be at Zupco need to implement modern transport management systems to be able to manage high costs, meet customer expectations and increasing risk which have created serious challenges for transport operations around the world.
One of the critical aspects that transporters have to grapple with is a new calibre of commuters who value their time and want to travel in comfort.
Zupco is in good stead to re-establish itself on the market if it retraces its routes and re-establishes a reliable and efficient transport system as synonymous with its old self.
It is our belief that it is not only about the number of buses that Zupco has that matters, but how the available buses are being deployed and managed. In the old days, Zupco buses were managed in such a way that commuters knew exactly when the next bus will arrive and approximately what time they will arrive at their destination.
In the same vein, the buses used to criss-cross between destinations at any given time mostly at intervals of an hour on city routes. This is the kind of efficiency, reliability and predictability that we believe Zupco management should strive for if it is going to entertain any prospects of upstaging its competition and taking its rightful place in the transport industry.
In addition, we believe that Zupco should also stay abreast with modern technology to facilitate customer satisfaction.
In this regard we appreciate that it has struck the right code with its tap and go card system, but we believe that the roll out has been slow and should be expedited so that it makes the most of this competitive edge it has over its competitors who are still insisting on the clients paying cash.
The presence of addition such as wi-fi and phone charging ports in the new buses is another advantage that Zupco should maximise on by ensuring that the services continue to be available and is extended to its other buses.
While some will see it as an additional cost our view is that Zupco is dealing with a diverse portfolio of clients most of whom are millennials that are constantly communicating on different gadgets on the go. Government is doing its part, Zupco should not drop the ball.