Maputo — Mozambican Transport Minister Carlos Mesquita on Monday declared himself satisfied at the services offered by the private transport company Fleetrail, through its initiative known as Metrobus, but called for it to offer services throughout the day, and not merely in the mornings and late afternoons.
Metrobus is a combination of train and bus transport. The same ticket covers the train journey from Matola or Machava to central Maputo, and then a bus to the final destination within the city.
Mesquita looked at the service for himself, catching the Metrobus train at Machava at 06.00, and chatting to other passengers. At Maputo Central station, Mesquita immediately transferred to a bus to OMM Square in the Cop neighbourhood.
Metrobus is a more expensive way of moving around the greater Maputo area than either the buses of the municipal company EMTCM, or the privately owned minibuses, known as “chapas”. But it is less crowded, more comfortable and reliable.
Although he found the journey satisfactory, Mesquita told reporters “there is a need to improve mobility and that means increasing the frequency of trains. There have been two or three Metrobus trains in the morning, and a similar number at the end of the afternoon. I would like to see Metrobus operate throughout the day”.
The general manager of Fleetrail, Amade Camal, told the independent television station that he too would like to run more trains (and indeed that is what he had promised before the service began, in February).
But Camal said everything depended on negotiations with the publicly owned port and rail company, CFM, which owns the tracks used by the Metrobus trains. Camal did not make clear what demands CFM is raising - but they certainly cannot have anything to do with the capacity of the lines.
CFM runs very few passenger services of its own, and so the lines between Maputo and Matola are severely underused.
Camal said increasing the number of trains is crucial in order to generate more income for Fleetrail, and thus guarantee a return on its investment. Currently Metrobus is carrying about 7.000 passengers a day, far below the initial hopes for 30,000 passengers a day.
Camal said he wants to add more services in the greater Maputo area, and also to replicate the Metrobus initiative in the central city of Beira.
Fleetrail currently has four railcars, each with four carriages, imported second hand from New Zealand, and a fleet of 100 buses of varying sizes. Each Metrobus train can carry 540 passengers, all seated.