Maputo — Mozambique's publicly owned ports and rail company, CFM, has banned the private company Metrobus from using its rail lines, alleging that Metrobus is not paying the agreed fees for the use of the lines.
Metrobus uses second hand rail cars, imported from New Zealand, to operate services from the municipalities of Matola and Boane to central Maputo rail station. From there, a fleet of buses ferries passengers to various parts of the city.
A large number of people who used to drive from Matola or Boane into central Maputo are now leaving their cars behind and taking Metrobus instead. The Metrobus trains are such a success that threy have become crowded, and nowadays people who board at intermediate stops are lucky if they find an unoccupied seat.
CFM claims that Metrobus owes the public company four million meticais (about 62,500 US dollars), accumulated over the past two years. CFM executive diretcor Claudio Jone, cited in Thursday's issue of the independent daily "O Pais", said this sum does not include unspecified "other services" for which Metrobus should pay.
He accused Metrobus of "time-wasting manoeuvres" to avoid honouring its contracts with CFM.
The chairperson of the CFM board, Amade Camal, retorted that CFM was simply envious of the success achieved by Metrobus. Both Jone and Camal complain of a lack of communication between the two companies.
"Unfortunately, we were not informed that our trains had been banned from the lines", said Camal. He guaranteed that Metrobus is continued to provide services to its clients through its fleet of buses.
He accused the CFM management of never collaborating with Metrobus. There was spare capacity on the CFM, which would allow Metrobus to run more trains, Camal claimed, but currently CFM was only allowing the metrobus trains to operate in the morning and evening rush hours.
As for the debt, Camal retorted that the Transport Ministry owes Metrobus "tens of millions of meticais for the services we provide".
Despite this debt, "we, as a private company, never stopped our services, because we understand their importance for Mozambicans", he added.
The Ministry has now stepped in, and has apparently ordered CFM to allow Metrobus to resume its use of the CFM lines.
A Thursday satement from Camal, on the Metrobus Facebook page, saays that, at the request of the Ministry's Permanent Secretary, Pedro Ingles, the Metrobus train services will resume "unconditionally" as from Thursday afternoon, obeying the normal timetable.
This statement said nothing about payment of the debts.