Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO) says it will be increasing its fleet of buses in Harare starting this evening following an overwhelming debut demand of its buses yesterday that left many people stranded in the Central Business District as kombi operators stick to new exorbitant fares.
Kombi operators immediately reacted to the fuel price increases yesterday afternoon by hiking fares while a few ZUPCO buses did little to alleviate the desperate situation of commuters.
In an interview with 263Chat Business this morning, acting ZUPCO chief executive Evaristo Madangwa said more ZUPCO buses are expected on the road as the day progresses.
“Yes we are going to be increasing our fleet. Yesterday was our first day on the road. The demand was overwhelming, so we identified that and realized people want to use our buses. We are therefore strategizing to make sure we increase our fleet,”
“From today on wards you will see an improvement. We are increasing our capacity as we intensify our strategy. The kombi operators are failing to match service so it’s creating demand for us and we moving in to address that,” said Madangwa.
The ZUPCO buses are part of the 28 commissioned last month by President Emmerson Mnangagwa out of the 800 ordered which are yet to be delivered.
Chaotic scenes characterized Harare CBD bus termini yesterday evening as commuters were left stranded having to jostle for limited ZUPCO buses and privately owned vehicles as commuter omnibus operators hiked fares in direct response to fuel increases.
Government by midday yesterday had raised the price of petrol from $ 3.36 per liter to $ 4.97 while that of diesel went up to $ 4.89 from $ 3.22.
By late afternoon commuter omnibus operators were charging a minimum of $ 2 for distances less than 10 km from CBD which usually go for $ 1 while areas such as Ruwa and Chitungwiza were charged $ 5 from $ 1.50.
Government declared ZUPCO buses to charge as little as $ 0.50 for 10 km distance and $ 0.75 for 20 km, as it sought to cushion hard-hit commuters from exorbitant kombi fares.
But analysts have questioned the viability of such low charges by the transport parastatal in the wake of raising fuel and spares costs to which Madangwa in defense said the company was banking on healthy economies of scale.
“It is viable, look at the economies of scale, look at the demand that there it was overwhelming so the huge number of passengers against our fares makes it viable, it adds up,” Madangwa said.
A snap survey by this publication showed that kombi charges remain unchanged while ZUPCO buses at various termini in the CBD are very minimal and the commuting public had to do with the limited options available.
However, most people remain pessimistic of an imminent end to Harare’s transport woes since the government is taking too long to fully implement its envisioned urban transport transformation.
But it’s the discord amongst commuter omnibus operators that is of great concern to a local transport consumer lobby group, Passengers Association of Zimbabwe (PAZ), who point to the impulsive price hikes and price distortions as major drivers to Harare’s transport woes.
“The increase in kombi fares is a bit cruel to the passengers, its relatively higher than the margin a liter of diesel has gone up with and it calls for a serious introspection into that. We call for the government to bring more buses to help commuters get cheaper and efficient transport,” PAZ spokesperson Nobert Mafu said.
The coming in of more buses is likely to put pressure on kombi operators to reduce fares as competition from ZUPCO is expected stabilize transport fares.