17 February 2008

Cameroon: Douala Urban Council Enters Urban Transport

For the first time in the history of the Douala Urban Council, the council has entered urban transport business.

The council has bought 38 percent of the shares of 'Sociéte Camerounaise de Transport Urbain', SOCATUR, which is the lone authorised urban bus service in Douala. SOCATUR, it would be recalled, bought over the defunct state-owned urban bus service, SOTUC.

Speaking at a meeting in Douala mid last month on the sorry state of urban transportation in Douala, the Government Delegate to the Douala Urban Council, Dr. Fritz Ntone Ntone, announced that the situation would soon be ameliorated with modern buses.

It should also be noted that a robbery in 2005 plunged SOCATUR into difficulties in 2006 and 2007, because many of its buses suffered regular breakdowns, while some crumbled beyond repair. The dilapidated roads in Douala also made matters worse. Thus, the company was forced to suspend some of its lines. Then with the heavy drop in revenue, the company was forced to retrench some workers.

30 New Buses

In the face of the above difficulties, the President/General Manager of SOCATUR, Jean Ernest Masséna Ngalle Bibehe, last year went out in search of credible partners to revamp the company.

He reportedly sold the idea to the Government Delegate and with the blessing of the Government, he bought the idea. The Government itself was reportedly worried by the appalling transport sector in Douala, and thus encouraged the Council to do same like the Yaounde Urban Council, which went into partnership with a private company to set up a good bus service in the city.

Late last month, SOCATUR imported 30 new buses hitting the streets of Douala on February 4. The buses are plying eight lines, where the roads have been rehabilitated or are not in a very bad shape.

SOCATUR, GM, however, denied allegations that his company had increased fares with the coming of the new buses. He said the fares remain FCFA 100 (half of the distance of a line), and FCFA 150 (for the whole distance).

Meanwhile, The Post learned that there are plans for SOCATUR to acquire more buses in the near future.

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