21 May 2012

Tanzania: Dar es Salaam Bus Fare Hike Bid Draws Mixed Reaction

NEWS that one company has applied to Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority (Sumatra) seeking a go-ahead to hike commuter fare by 150 per cent has been met with mixed reactions.

Sumatra Public Affairs Manager David Mziray said they had received the application, which would be debated before the final approval is granted.

He further said that operators cannot introduce any new fares without the knowledge and approval of the authority. "We have received the application and there will be a public debate on the matter this week," he said.

Members of the public, commuter bus owners and other stakeholders are scheduled to meet on May 23 to 24, at the Karimjee Hall for a public debate.

Last Wednesday, Sumatra confirmed that they had received an application from Cordial Transport Services seeking a 150 per cent hike in fares, citing operational costs and rise in inflation. At present, passengers pay between 300/- and 500/- for a single trip, depending on the length of the route while students pay 150/-. In the application by the company, passengers who pay 300/- per route will have to dig deeper into their pockets and cough up 750/-.

Those paying 500/- for a trip will have to pay-out 1,250/- per route while students will pay 375/- up from 150/-. Dar es Salaam Commuter Bus Owners' Association (Darcoboa) Chairman, Mr Sabri Mabruk, told this paper that the hike of fares has been long overdue and that the proposed prices still wouldn't bring about the desired impact.

Mr Mabruk said that in all developed nations, city transport is either owned by the government or facilitated by the same in such manner that the passenger doesn't shoulder much of the burden. "Through the amended regulations by Sumatra, the association is no longer permitted to submit applications for fare hikes. But if you ask me, the proposed hike will only increase the poor services that passengers receive," he said.

A Dar es Salaam resident, Mr Abdurabi Saleh, said that he was against the hike saying that whilst inflation is pegged at 19.4 per cent as of Wednesday, there hasn't been an increase in wages while taxes have remained the same. "What needs to be done is to remove unnecessary taxes and improve infrastructure whereby less time will be spent in traffic jams," he suggested.

Mr Babu Ally, a bank employee, noted that a hike in bus fares is paramount if services are to improve. He said that people owning commuter buses famously known as daladalas and those working for them have to earn their daily bread just like everyone else.

"I fully support daladala owners who have proposed the hikes. However, the proposed 700/- is a bit too high, it should at least be equivalent to the 19 per cent inflation rate," he said. Mr Deogratias Mruah, a researcher, said that a hike of over 100 per cent isn't justified and though everyone is after value for money, it should be put in mind that value for money also includes quality of services provided.

Mr Mruah said that most daladalas in the city are not roadworthy, conductors and drivers are not cleanly dressed and often do not abide by traffic laws, putting passengers at risk. "It's sad that the only time we hear about Sumatra is when there is a strike or demands for hike in fares yet their role is beyond that," he said.

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