Three transport firms were awarded a five-year deal to operate public transport in the capital. The firms include Kigali Bus Service (KBS), Rwanda Federation of Transport Cooperative (RFTC) and Royal Express.
Kigali commuters yesterday cautiously welcomed a new public transport system with hope that it marked the end of difficulties synonymous with public transport in the city. On the first day of the new arrangement it became immediately clear that commuter taxis had been phased out off the main routes to give way for buses and mini-buses.
"I am waiting to see how it will work out. Hopefully it will relieve us of the long waits at bus stops. I suppose operators need to bring in more buses to prevent possible shortages," said Emily Bukuru.
The Rwanda Utility Regulatory Authority (Rura) and the City of Kigali gave three transport firms a five-year deal to operate public transport in the capital, keeping out those who did not meet minimum requirements.
The firms include Kigali Bus Service (KBS), Rwanda Federation of Transport Cooperative (RFTC) and Royal Express.
Each of the three firms will operate in designated areas, divided into five zones, across the City of Kigali.
"The system looks good, organised and actually creates new routes," said another passenger who only identified himself as Kanamugire.
However, Kanamugire said he had to wait for at least 30 minutes to get a vehicle from Kicukiro to his place of work in Kacyiru. This was because many of the regular taxis were parked as they waited to ply newly established smaller roads linking suburbs, leaving the main routes to bigger vehicles.
Other passengers who talked to Saturday Times warned that the three companies that won the public transport tender don't have enough buses, especially during peak hours. Kigali is said to have 250 mini-buses with capacity to carry between 25 to 30 passengers, and dozens of buses. There are also an estimated 800 taxis each with capacity to carry 18 passengers which have now been relegated to smaller routes to feed into the main roads.
Speaking at the launch of the new system, yesterday, the State Minister in charge of Transport, Alex Nzahabwanimana, said the three firms were supposed to increase their fleet on incremental basis.
"We urge these companies to ensure efficiency so they can make enough money to buy more buses," he said
He also asked operators to come up with bankable proposals that would help them access financing from banks if they are to urgently increase on their fleet.
"The ultimate objective is to see to it that commuters move from one place to another with ease and faster," he said.
The new public transport system requires operators to have a bus at every bus stop every five minutes during peak hours and 15 minutes during off-peak hours. The operators are also required to be on the road from 5a.m to 11p.m. Rura and city officials have appealed to police and passengers to help monitor the compliance by the transport companies.
A six-member team composed of officers from the City of Kigali, Rura and Police will be deployed to monitor compliance. Rural officials say offenders will face penalties, including termination of contract in extreme cases. Government says it's willing to give incentives to people willing to buy recommended buses to ensure a smooth public transport in the city.
One of the incentives is a reduction in taxes. According to statistics, Kigali has an estimated 200,000 passengers every day. The city has slightly more than one million inhabitants. Col. (rtd) Dodo Twahirwa, the president RFTC, one of the contracted operators, said they are looking into strategies to bring in more buses.
Odette Ingabire, trader Kimironko market
I think it's a good arrangement, it will instill discipline among drivers. However many of us are not yet aware of it so authorities must come out and sensitise us about it.
Emily Bukuru, Secretary
I am waiting to see how it will work. Hopefully it will relieve us of the long lines we have been making waiting for these buses. I believe operators must bring in more buses, because the issue should not only focus on routes but on the number of buses in the city as compared to the number of commuters.
James Mugabo (traffic police officer)
This is a great idea, Rwanda is developing, and we can't develop with a disorganised transport system. Operators must understand the urgency of having a well organised and more efficient transport system.
Augustine Ntawuruhunga, taxi conductor
This will not work, what this means is that it's no longer a free market. Contracted operators have no one to compete with, so how do you expect efficiency where there is a monopolistic business?
Alexander Bariho, shop attendant
It's great news, it really shows that government cares about its citizens. We shouldn't suffer because we don't own cars. I also believe that this new system will reduce on the traffic congestion within the city.
Jean Claude Munyankuzi, trader in Kimihurura
Rwanda must be known as a country where every business, every activity is conduct edin an organised way. Therefore having a new public transport system in place is a step toward that reality. We also need to be like those developed countries we normally see on television.
Phortine Uwamahoro (Air time card sales lady)
It's a good idea only if they don't increase transport fares now that they are alone in the market. Government needs to emphasise on the needs of local people, like good transport network, hospitals and electricity. I am happy this is happening.