UPCOUNTRY bus operators have been challenged to be realistic and justify their applications for increases of fares.
The challenge follows applications by two bus transportation companies, Happy Nation Company and ABC Trans for fare increases. The two Companies want the Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority (SUMATRA) to raise fares to between 36,270/- and 67,819/- depending on the routes and type of bus.
Happy Nation plies the Dar es Salaam to Arusha route charging 18,900/- for ordinary buses, 28,000/- for semi luxury buses and 31,500 for full luxury buses while the ABC Trans charges 21,200/-, 31,500/-, and 35,700/- for the same categories from Dar es Salaam to Singida.
Giving views on the proposals, the SUMATRA Consumer Consultative Council Executive Secretary, Mr Oscar Kikoyo, said in Dar es Salaam yesterday that the companies must justify their operating expenses which he said were exaggerated in many areas.
"It has been a fashion now that operators demand fare increases without justification and while they actually operate profitably. We are of the position that their request be thrown and they be ordered to continue charging the current fares if not pruning them altogether," he said.
According to Mr Kikoyo, many operators employ unqualified personnel to operate their buses and preparation of their annual accounts are invariably tailored to cheat. He said that there was a lot of cheating in stating actual running expenses of their buses while many others cheat on salaries paid to their staff.
Moreover, he said, it was evident that other buses give fake tickets to passengers and disturb them a lot during the journey without any compensation. Mr Kikoyo insisted that buses companies should make sure they have comprehensive insurance cover which guarantees compensation of passengers in case of accidents or any other inconvenience caused.
"But we are sure most buses operate using third party licence covers which can not pay a passenger in case of any calamity during the journey," he said. Other stakeholders were of the view that SUMATRA should intervene at the Ubungo Bus Terminal where passengers face harassment.
The Secretary General of Tanzania Bus Owners' Association (TABOA), Mr Enea Mrutu, said that many buses are forced to offer poor services due to the outdated fares charged. He called for permission to institute new fares so as to improve services.
He said many operators can not manage to buy brand new buses and durable spare parts like tyres but failed to elaborate if increasing fares would improve that area. Mr Kikoyo cautioned that fixing inferior spare parts and substandard tyres was dangerous to passengers' lives let alone the aspects of safety and comfort during journeys.